Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Loss of Visitation with Young Daughter and Good Time Credit Not Impermissible Consequences for Prisoner's Refusal to Admit during Sex Offender Treatment Program That He Committed Charged Offense

Magazine article Developments in Mental Health Law

Loss of Visitation with Young Daughter and Good Time Credit Not Impermissible Consequences for Prisoner's Refusal to Admit during Sex Offender Treatment Program That He Committed Charged Offense

Article excerpt

A convicted sex offender while incarcerated was directed by prison officials to participate in a sex offender treatment program. This program mandated that the offender admit he had committed the offense (sexual assault of a minor) for which he was incarcerated. When the offender refused to do so, he lost a number of privileges, including visitation with his three-year old daughter and an opportunity to earn good time credits that would hasten his release. The offender asserted these limitations violated a number of his constitutional rights.

The Tenth Circuit rejected the prisoner's assertions. In addressing the denial of visitation, the court applied the Supreme Court's recent decision in Overton v. Bazzetta, 539 U.S. 126 (2003), which established that the Constitution allows prison officials to impose reasonable restrictions upon visitation.

The court acknowledged that parents have an important constitutionally protected liberty interest in having a reasonable opportunity to develop close relations with their children and that visitation may significantly benefit both the prisoner and his family. However, the court found that two legitimate penological interests supported the ban, namely, the need to protect these children and the need to further the rehabilitation of convicted sex offenders. The court emphasized that prison administrators had offered some evidence that this contact could adversely affect both the child and the offender and the burden was on the prisoner to disprove the validity of their judgment, a burden that this prisoner had not met. …

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