WILLIAM OVERTON, DIRECTOR, MICHIGAN DE-
PARTMENT OF CORRECTIONS, et al., PETI-
MICHELLE BAZZETTA et al.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE SIXTH CIRCUIT
[June 16, 2003]
Justice Kennedy delivered the opinion of the Court.
The State of Michigan, by regulation, places certain restrictions on visits with prison
inmates. The question before the Court is whether the regulations violate the
substantive due process mandate of the
, or the First or
s as applicable to the States through the
The population of Michigan’s prisons increased in the early 1990’s. More inmates
brought more visitors, straining the resources available for prison supervision and
control. In particular, prison officials found it more difficult to maintain order during
visitation and to prevent smuggling or trafficking in drugs. Special problems were
encountered with the increase in visits by children, who are at risk of seeing or hearing
harmful conduct during visits and must be supervised with special care in prison
The incidence of substance abuse in the State’s prisons also increased in this
period. Drug and alcohol abuse by prisoners is unlawful and a direct threat to legitimate
objectives of the corrections system, including rehabilitation, the maintenance of basic
order, and the prevention of violence in the prisons.
In response to these concerns, the Michigan Department of Corrections (MDOC or
Department) revised its prison visitation policies in 1995, promulgating the regulations
here at issue. One aspect of the Department’s approach was to limit the visitors a
prisoner is eligible to receive, in order to decrease the total number of visitors.
Under the MDOC’s regulations, an inmate may receive visits only from individuals
placed on an approved visitor list, except that qualified members of the clergy and
attorneys on official business may visit without being listed. Mich. Admin. Code Rule
791.6609(2) (1999); Director’s Office Mem. 1995—59 (effective date Aug. 25, 1995).
The list may include an unlimited number of members of the prisoner’s immediate
family and ten other individuals the prisoner designates, subject to some restrictions.
Mich. Admin. Code Rule 791.6609(2) (1999). Minors under the age of 18 may not be
placed on the list unless they are the children, stepchildren, grandchildren, or siblings
of the inmate. Rule 791.6609(2)(b); Mich. Comp. Laws Ann. §791.268a (West Supp.
2003). If an inmate’s parental rights have been terminated, the child may not be a