AELE LAW LIBRARY OF CASE SUMMARIES:
Corrections Law
for Jails, Prisons and Detention Facilities


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Computers, E-Mail, Internet Issues

     Monthly Law Journal Articles: Prisoners, Parolees, Sex Offenders, Computers, and the Internet - Part 1, 2015 (5) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.
     Monthly Law Journal Articles: Prisoners, Parolees, Sex Offenders, Computers, and the Internet - Part 2, 2015 (6) AELE Mo. L. J. 301.

     A man convicted of rape and diagnosed with paraphilia (sexual attraction to non-consenting women) was civilly committed to a treatment center as a Sexually Violent Person. He sued the facility's officials and clinical staff for violation of his First Amendment constitutional rights in restricting their access to movies and video games. The facility barred them from watching all R-rated movies or play M(mature)-rated video games displaying intense violence, blood and gore, sexual content, or "strong language." Subsequently, the policy was altered to only prohibit 353 specified movies and 232 specific games. When the facility later discovered that at least two residents had used a video game console to access the Internet for the purpose of viewing prohibited content, all such consoles capable of accessing the Internet were also prohibited. A federal appeals court ruled that the record was insufficient to show that the ban on movies and video games was reasonably related to the state's interest in rehabilitation and security. The court also found that a bare assertion that the ban on all sexual material promoted treatment was insufficient to support granting summary judgment for the defendants on the First Amendment claim. The court did agree, however, that the ban on video game consoles capable of accessing the Internet was rationally related to the facility's interest in security. Brown v. Phillips, #14-3325, 2015 U.S. App. Lexis 16346 (7th Cir.).
     An Indiana state statute that broadly prohibited most registered sex offenders from using instant messaging services, social media sites and chat programs violated their First Amendment rights. While the state justifiably wished to protect children from inappropriate sexual communication, and the law was content neutral, the law placed a burden on more speech than was necessary to achieve that purpose. The court found that a sex offender's use of social media was not dangerous as long as they did not engage in improper communication with minors. Such communication was a tiny subset of the "universe of social media." The state could have, without substantial diffioculty, more precisely targeted the evil it wanted to prevent. Doe v. Prosecutor, Marion County, #12-2512, 2013 U.S. App. Lexis 1528 (7th Cir.).
     A federal trial court has struck down a Nebraska state law barring registered sex offenders from using the Internet for most purposes, including social media. The court said that by severely limiting "even benign" uses of the Internet, the law raised First Amendment, due process, Fourth Amendment and ex post facto issues. The law, the judge found, did not leave open ample alternative channels for communication of information. A portion of the statute that applied to those registered as sex offenders but who were not on probation, parole, or court monitored supervision violated the Fourth Amendment. The court said the law wrongly bars offenders "from using an enormous portion of the Internet to engage inexpressive activity." and "potentially restricts the targeted offenders from communicating with hundreds of millions and perhaps billions of adults and their companies despite the fact that the communication has nothing whatsoever to do with minors." Further, the law "is not narrowly tailored to target those offenders who pose a factually based risk to children through the use or threatened use of the banned sites or services. The risk posited by the statute is far too speculative when judged against the First Amendment." Doe v. State of Nebraska, #8:09CV456, 2012 U.S. Dist. Lexis 148770 (D. Neb).
     California prison ban on mail containing printed-out downloads from the Internet violated the First Amendment. Clement v. California Department of Corrections, #03-15006, 2004 U.S. App. Lexis 7576 (9th Cir.). [2004 JB Jun]
     Federal court strikes down as unconstitutional Arizona statute prohibiting prisoners from communicating with Internet websites through the mails or otherwise or receiving mail from them. Court finds that prohibition is not reasonably related to a legitimate penological purpose and that other statutes and policies already prohibit communication involving fraud, harassment of victims, communication with minors, and other purported purposes of the ban on communication with Internet service providers. Canadian Coalition Against the Death Penalty v. Ryan, 269 F. Supp. 2d 1199 (D. Ariz. 2003). [2003 JB Nov]
     293:67 California prison rule prohibiting the receipt, through U.S. mail, of Internet generated material, including e-mail, was rationally related to prison's legitimate security concerns; appeals court overturns order allowing prisoner to receive printouts of e-mails sent to his internet web page, created via an arrangement with an outside company. Collins, In Re, 86 Cal. App. 4th 1176, 104 Cal. Rptr. 2d 108 (2001).
     267:35 West Virginia Supreme Court upholds state policy barring prison inmates from possessing computers in their cells; prior practice allowing such possession did not create any vested right to continue to possess them, and deprivation of computer possession did not result in denial of meaningful access to the courts. West Virginia, State of, Ex Rel. Anstey v. Davis, 509 S.E.2d 579 (W. Va. 1998).
     231:35 Federal appeals court rules that inmate/prison law librarian, allowed computer in his cell by prison officials, had a right to aid mentally retarded inmate in preparing legal documents; prison employees not entitled to qualified immunity for seizing legal documents from law librarian's cell and disciplining him for possessing them. Newell v. Sauser, 64 F.3d 1416 (9th Cir. 1995).
     218:23 Federal trial judge, hoping to make the "message" clear to prisoner who filed multiple frivolous lawsuits, confiscates any computer, word processor or typewriter prisoner has, imposes $5,000 monetary sanction (to be collected by attachment of prisoner's commissary funds and future prison earnings), and orders that prisoner state, on the outside of each envelope of outgoing mail, that he has been "enjoined from asserting fraudulent personal injury claims." Williams v. Revlon Co., 156 F.R.D. 39 (S.D.N.Y. 1994).
     Prisoner's rights were not violated by prison's confiscation of unauthorized computer disks on which he had placed legal materials pertaining to his appeal; prisoner was not allowed to possess the disks or use prison computers, so prison authorities properly confiscated the disks. Bryant v. Muth, 994 F.2d 1082 (4th Cir. 1993).
     Warden's decision to deprive prisoner of his television set and personal computer because of refusal to sign an "individual performance plan" agreeing to keep himself and cell clean did not violate prisoner's rights. Jensen v. Powers, 472 N.W.2d 223 (N.D. 1991).
     Michigan prisoners had a protected property interest in possessing computers in their cells, but were not entitled to a hearing on denial of that interest. Spruyette v. Dept. of Corrections, 459 N.W.2d 52 (Mich. App. 1990).

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