Pell v. Procunier 417 U.S. 817 (1974)

views updated

PELL v. PROCUNIER 417 U.S. 817 (1974)

In a case that helped delineate the boundaries between the traditional first amendment freedoms and the expanding area of prisoners ' rights, several prisoners and professional journalists challenged the constitutionality of a California prison regulation that forbade press interviews with particular inmates. The argument for the prisoners' rights was that this regulation abridged their freedom of speech; the journalists claimed the rule inhibited their newsgathering capabilities, thus violating the freedom of press. The Justices voted 6–3 against the inmates and 5–4 against the journalists. Because the prisoners had alternative means of communication (friends or family, for example) the California regulation did not violate their rights. The majority based its rejection of the journalists' position on the purpose of the regulation—to prevent particular individuals from gaining excessive influence through special attention—and the reporters' otherwise free access to prisoners. Furthermore, the regulation did not prohibit the press from publishing what it chose.

David Gordon