SAN FRANCISCO (CN) – A prisoner’s free-speech rights were violated when he was disciplined for using offensive language in letters to his mother and grandmother, the 9th Circuit ruled.
Jacob Henry Barrett lost good time and privileges after using racist language to describe prison officials in his letters.
In a per-curiam decision, the circuit judges ruled that the district court used an incorrect legal standard to determine that Barrett did not state a claim. The district court ruled that the prison had a “legitimate penological interest” in preventing the use of vulgar language.
The appellate court noted that the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that prisoners’ free speech in their letters should only be limited for an “important or substantial government interest.”