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First Amendment Library:
Jacob L. Safron


Pursuant to regulations promulgated by the North Carolina Department of Correction, appellants prohibited inmates from soliciting other inmates to join appellee, the North Carolina Prisoners' Labor Union, Inc. (Union), barred all meetings of the Union, and refused to deliver packets of Union publications that had been mailed in bulk to several inmates for redistribution among other prisoners. The Union instituted this action, based on 42 U. S. C. § 1983, to challenge these policies. It alleged that appellants' efforts to prevent the operation of a prisoners' union violated the First and Fourteenth Amendment rights of it and its members and that the refusal to grant the Union those privileges accorded several other organizations operating within the prison system deprived the Union of equal protection of the laws. A three-judge court was convened. After a hearing, the court found merit in the Union's free speech, association, and equal protection arguments, and enjoined appellants from preventing inmates from soliciting other prisoners to join the Union and from "refus[ing] receipt of the Union's publications on the ground that they are calculated to encourage membership in the organization or solicit joining." The court also held that the Union "shall be accorded the privilege of holding meetings under such limitations and control as are neutrally applied to all inmate organizations . . . ." 409 F. Supp. 937. We noted probable jurisdiction to consider whether the First and Fourteenth Amendments extend prisoner labor unions such protection. 429 U. S. 976. We have decided that they do not, and we accordingly reverse the judgment of the District Court.