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Thornburg v. Abbott

    Brief Fact Summary. A prisoner was denied access to publications from the outside and challenges the constitutionality of such a regulation.

    Synopsis of Rule of Law. The government may restrict the speech of a prisoner as long as the restriction is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest.

    Facts. The Federal Bureau of Prisons allows wardens to reject incoming publications that might disrupt the security of the prison or otherwise encourage criminal activity. The warden may not reject material simply because of its sexual, political, religious, or repugnant expression.

    Issue. Is this restraint on incoming publications rationally related to a legitimate and content-neutral governmental objective?

    Held. Yes. This regulation is valid under the reasonableness standard of scrutiny.

    Dissent. This censorship prevents inmates from communicating with the outside world and infringes upon their First Amendment rights.

    Discussion. The goal is to maintain order within the prison system. Certain publications could incite violence simply by being in the hands of an inmate. The warden reviews each piece for its potential to incite the group and discarded accordingly. However, this classification is never based solely on the content of the publication.


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