Prisoners' Rights Archives
Beard v. Banks (2006) upheld, against a First Amendment challenge, prison
restrictions on inmates’ reading materials, reinforcing the Court’s
deference to prison officials.
Bell v. Wolfish (1979) said a New York prison restriction against pretrial
detainees’ receiving hardcover books did not violate the First Amendment as
it was neutrally applied.
In Cooper v. Pate (1964), the Court decided that the Bill of Rights,
including the First Amendment, applied to prisoners and reinstated the
claim of a Muslim inmate’s.
Cruz v. Beto (1972) said trial courts could not dismiss a prisoner’s First
Amendment claim without a finding of facts. Cruz claimed he faced
discrimination for Buddhism.
Cutter v. Wilkinson (2005) upheld a law that strengthened the ability of
prisoners to practice their religion in face of a challenge that it
violated the First Amendment.
Dahne v. Richey (2019) declined review of an appellate holding that
prisoner had a First Amendment-based right to use disrespectful language in
Holt v. Hobbs (2015) ruled that prison officials violated the First
Amendment religious liberty rights of a Muslim inmate by refusing to allow
him to grow a short beard.
In Johnson v. Avery (1969), the Supreme Court affirmed that inmates retain
the First Amendment right to petition the courts for a redress of
In Jones v. North Carolina Prisoners’ Union (1977), the Supreme Court
upheld state prison restrictions on union meetings, distribution, and
The Supreme Court in 2019 granted a stay of execution to a Texas prisoner
who claimed prison rules denying him access to his Buddhist spiritual
advisor violated the establishment clause of the First Amendment. In Murphy
v. Collier, the court ruled this was “denominational discrimination.”
O’Lone v. Estate of Shabazz (1987) held that inmate religious rights may be
restricted for security concerns without being in violation of the First
Overton v. Bazzetta (2003) upheld prison non-contact visitation bans,
reaffirming that prisons have broad discretion in disciplinary that affect
inmates’ First Amendment rights.
Pearson v. Callahan (2009) involved a Fourth Amendment search and seizure
issue but has had a profound impact on much subsequent First Amendment
In Pell v. Procunier (1974), the Court upheld a ban on face-to-face media
interviews with inmates, rejecting arguments that it interfered with First
Procunier v. Martinez (1974) established a protective standard of inmate
First Amendment rights. Specifically, reviewed the constitutionality of
inmate mail censorship.
The Supreme Court in Ramirez v. Collier (2022) said that a death row
inmate’s religious rights claims would likely prevail after Texas rejected
his request for a pastor to pray over him and lay hands on him at his
In Shaw v. Murphy (2001), the Supreme Court said that a prison inmate law
clerk did not have a First Amendment right to assist another prisoner in
Thornburgh v. Abbott (1989) held that federal prison restrictions relative
to incoming publications or letters did not violate the First Amendment
right to free speech.
Turner v. Safley (1987) determined that restrictions on inmates’
constitutional rights, including those of the First Amendment, were subject
to a rational basis standard of review.
Wolff v. McDonnell (1974) said prisoners can receive confidential attorney
correspondence, but the correspondence can be opened to ensure that the
letters contain no contraband.