Prisioner's Rights

Excerpted from: Prisoners' Rights, 40 Georgetown Law Journal Annual Review of Criminal Procedure 1007 (2011) (8 footnotes Omitted)

Criminal convictions and lawful imprisonment permit proper limitations on citizens' freedom and other constitutional rights, but prisoners retain those substantive rights compatible with the objectives of incarceration. Federal courts are reluctant to intervene in internal prison administration, and they accord wide-ranging deference to the judgment of prison officials, particularly regarding the policies and actions needed to preserve or restore a prison's internal order.

A prison regulation that infringes on a prisoner's constitutional rights must be “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests.” Reasonableness is deter-mined by whether: (1) a “valid, rational connection” exists between the regulation and the legitimate interest that would be advanced by its enactment; (2) alternative means of exercising the asserted right would remain available; (3) accommodation of the asserted right would adversely affect guards, other inmates, or the allocation of prison resources; and (4) an obvious alternative to the regulation exists “that fully accommodates the prisoner's rights at de minimis cost to valid penological interests.” The Supreme Court specifically rejected a test that would have required all prison regulations to be the “least restrictive alternative.” However, the existence of an alternative regulation better suited to accommodate a prisoner's rights may be evidence that the regulation is an unreasonable, “exaggerated response” to penological concerns.