Turner v. Safley - Essay Example

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This case was originally brought forward by inmates against the Missouri Division of Corrections for two rules that were put in force regarding restricting the correspondence and marriage of the inmates. The first rule allowed inmates to correspond with each other if they were…
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Turner v. Safley
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This case was originally brought forward by inmates against the Missouri Division of Corrections for two rules that were put in force regarding restricting the correspondence and marriage of the inmates. The first rule allowed inmates to correspond with each other if they were immediate family members, or if the correspondence was “concerning legal matters”. Also, if the classification/treatment team of each inmate considered it in the best interest of the parties, the latter were allowed to correspond with each other. In all other cases, the inmates were prohibited from writing letters to other inmates, whether within the same prison or another.
The second rule entailed that prisoners could only get married with the permission of the prison superintendent. This permission was only granted due to “compelling reasons”, which generally were a pregnancy or the birth of a child outside of marriage.
Both the Federal District Court and Court of Appeals found these rules unconstitutional and ruled in favor of the petitioners, i.e. the inmates. The Missouri Division of Corrections appealed in the U.S. Supreme Court.

In the Supreme Court, it was held that the first rule was reasonable and necessary for security reasons; if correspondence were to be allowed freely between prisoners, it could lead to inmates plotting escape plans, arranging violent activities and to promote prison gang activities. Moreover, this rule did not bar the prisoners from corresponding to prisoners and hence did not deprive them of all ways of expression. This rule was necessary for the safety of the prison staff as well as of the prisoners themselves. Therefore, the earlier decision in this matter was overturned.
On the second rule, however, the Court agreed with the decision of the lower courts. It was decided that such a rule barred the right of the prisoners to marry on an unreasonable level, as, whether a prisoner married another prisoner or a civilian, it could not possibly have a negative effect that large on the prison staff or inmates so as to render it necessary for them to obtain the permission of the prison superintendent. Hence this rule was declared unconstitutional and ordered removed.
The ruling of the Court was very balanced in its approach. The Court did not allow the infringement of the rights of the inmates that the Constitution provided them; moreover, it also kept in mind that the security of the prison staff and inmates was of prime importance and could not be compromised.
Though it is important for none of the Constitutional rights of persons, be they from any class of people, are upheld, however, in situations where some of these rights have to be altered, in one way or another, to better suit the situation. In this case, though the prisoners did have the Constitutional right of freedom of expression, however, it should not be forgotten that they are being penalized for a crime that they committed, and it is far more necessary for the lives of those who take care of them to be protected than for them to have necessary limitations to their right of free expression.
Turner v. Safley, 482 U.S. 78 (1987) Read More
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