State policies limiting prison inmates rights to see visitors got a green light from the U.S. Supreme Court yesterday. The unanimous ruling rejected a challenge to restrictions in Michigan that have been eased since they were first challenged in court. The Detroit Free Press says that the state has allowed underage siblings to visit prisoners since 2001, and last year added underage nieces and nephews. Noncontact visits were resumed for prisoners with substance abuse violations.
“Withdrawing visitation privileges is a proper and even necessary management technique to induce compliance with the rules of inmate behavior, especially for high-security prisoners who have few other privileges to lose,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote.
The issues were closely followed by states, 21 of which filed briefs supporting Michigan, and by activists for prisoners and their families. Even if Michigan retains the liberalized visitation policy, taxpayers may benefit because the ruling takes the state off the hook for hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees that would have been due to lawyers for the prisoners and their families if the policies had been found unconstitutional.