Thornburgh v. Abbott
490 U.S. 401 (1989)

  • The Federal Bureau of Prisons (FBP) allowed inmates to get mail, but authorized prison officials to reject certain items.
    • The prison officials could reject something if it was “detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or if it might facilitate criminal activity,” but not just because “its content was religious, philosophical, political, social, sexual, unpopular, or repugnant.”
  • A number of prisoners and publishers challenged the regulation, claiming that it was an unconstitutional infringement on the 1st Amendment’s right to free speech.
    • Some of the items that had been denied were magazines describing poor prison conditions.
  • The US Supreme Court found the FBP regulations to be constitutional.
    • The US Supreme Court acknowledged that prisoners do retain some 1st Amendment rights.
    • However, the Court found that the FBP had a compelling government interest in maintaining order in the prison system, and that the regulation was rationally related to the interest.
      • Therefore, the regulations were ok, even though they infringed on a constitutional right.