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Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Beard v Banks: Penn Prison Officials did Not Violate Prisoners' Rights By Denying Access to Writings

From washingtonpost.com: In Beard v Banks, the Court said in a 6-2 decision that Pennsylvania prison officials did not violate the rights of troublesome inmates by denying them access to certain newspapers and magazines, the Supreme Court ruled Wednesday. The justices said the state had a legitimate reason for using inmates' access to secular newspapers as an incentive to get prisoners in a high-security unit to behave themselves.

But Justice Stephen Breyer, writing for the majority, said Pennsylvania's victory could be short-lived if there is another constitutional challenge to the prison unit's rules because the justices were divided over how far states can go in determining punishment for offenders.

In a concurring opinion, Justices Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia said courts have no business second-guessing state officials' decisions on prison operations. Nor, they said, should courts force states to accommodate inmates by providing substitutes for the rights taken away.  Justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissented, saying even the "worst of the worst" offenders have constitutional protections, especially the First Amendment's coverage of "rights to receive, to read and to think." Rest of Article. . . [Mark Godsey]

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