Regardless of the circumstances surrounding an alleged criminal offense and its resulting trial and conviction, beginning a jail sentence is rarely an easy transition. As such, it can be comforting for defendants to have certain personal belongings in prison with them. But as a federal judge recently made clear, inmates have no constitutional right to those items, and are therefore at the mercy of the court and jail officials when seeking comforts from home.
In the case, an inmate who was serving time in a federal prison for his role in an alleged conspiracy to commit securities fraud requested that his family be able to order and bring him a jigsaw puzzle with which to play during his incarceration. Jail officials refused, and the inmate filed a lawsuit, alleging that his constitutional right to free speech had been violated by the refusal.
Specifically, the inmate argued that possessing the puzzle was an expression of free speech and was therefore protected by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. The judge disagreed, ruling that the inmate had not shown a clear violation of his constitutional rights by the jail’s refusal to allow the puzzle.
The inmate also argued that the prison regulations that forbade the puzzle were unfair and baseless, and that there was no logical reason to ban a puzzle that was a similar size to an allowed book. The judge again disagreed, citing the “limitations on the ability of prisons to process and store inmate property” as the reason that books are allowed but puzzles are not.
What do you think? Should the jail have allowed the puzzle?