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Prisoners' Rights - Mail

censorship officials held censor

Throughout U.S. history, prison officials have severely restricted the mail of prisoners. For example, officials have opened incoming mail to catch plans and instruments of escape, weapons, PORNOGRAPHY, drugs, and other contraband. The threat of revoking mail privileges has also been used to enforce discipline. Courts have mandated, however, that prison officials offer good reasons for banning publications they consider inflammatory, obscene, or racist. A vague allegation that a book or magazine is likely to stir up trouble has been held inadequate to justify broad CENSORSHIP.

Prison administrators cannot unreasonably restrict or censor a prisoner's outgoing mail. In 1974, the Supreme Court, in Procunier v. Martinez, 416 U.S. 396, 94 S. Ct. 1800, 40 L. Ed. 2d 224, ruled that the California Department of Corrections could not censor the direct personal correspondence of prisoners unless such censorship was necessary to further important interests of the government in security, order, and rehabilitation. The Court also held that a procedure must be established to determine that censorship, when appropriate, is neither ARBITRARY nor unduly burdensome.

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