Kentucky Department Of Corrections v. Thompson

490 U.S. 454 (1989)


In 1981, Kentucky issued 'Corrections Policies and Procedures' governing general prison visitation, including a nonexhaustive list of visitors who may be excluded. Four years later, D issued its own more detailed 'Procedures Memorandum' on the subject of 'Visiting Regulations.' The memorandum begins with a Statement of Policy and Purpose: 'Although administrative staff reserves the right to allow or disallow visits, it is the policy of the Kentucky State Reformatory to respect the right of inmates to have visits in the spirit of the Court decisions and the Consent Decree, while ensuring the safety and security of the institution.' A visitor may be denied entry if his or her presence would constitute a 'clear and probable danger to the safety and security of the institution or would interfere with the orderly operation of the institution.' A nonexhaustive list of nine specific reasons for excluding visitors is set forth. The decision whether to exclude a visitor rests with the duty officer, who is to be consulted by any staff member who 'feels a visitor should not be allowed admittance.' P sued D claiming D's policy unconstitutionally interfered with his access to visitors. The court found that P had a liberty interest in visitation entitled to due process protections and that D’s policies and procedures were inadequate. The District Court directed D to develop 'minimal due process procedures,' including 'an informal, nonadversary review in which a prisoner receives notice of and reasons for' any decision to exclude a visitor, as well as an opportunity to respond. Court of Appeals affirmed and remanded the case. The Supreme Court granted certiorari.