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decided*fn*: July 3, 1984.



Burger, C. J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which White, Powell, Rehnquist, and O'connor, JJ., joined, and in Part II-B of which Brennan, Marshall, Blackmun, and Stevens, JJ., also joined. O'connor, J., filed a concurring opinion, post, p. 537. Stevens, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which Brennan, Marshall, and Blackmun, JJ., joined, post, p. 541.

Author: Burger

[ 468 U.S. Page 519]

 CHIEF JUSTICE BURGER delivered the opinion of the Court.

We granted certiorari in No. 82-1630 to decide whether a prison inmate has a reasonable expectation of privacy in his prison cell entitling him to the protection of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches and seizures. We also granted certiorari in No. 82-6695, the cross-petition, to determine whether our decision in Parratt v. Taylor, 451 U.S. 527 (1981), which held that a negligent deprivation of property by state officials does not violate the Fourteenth Amendment if an adequate post-deprivation state remedy exists, should extend to intentional deprivations of property.


The facts underlying this dispute are relatively simple. Respondent Palmer is an inmate at the Bland Correctional Center in Bland, Va., serving sentences for forgery, uttering, grand larceny, and bank robbery convictions. On September 16, 1981, petitioner Hudson, an officer at the Correctional Center, with a fellow officer, conducted a "shakedown" search of respondent's prison locker and cell for contraband. During the "shakedown," the officers discovered a ripped pillowcase in a trash can near respondent's cell bunk. Charges

[ 468 U.S. Page 520]

     against Palmer were instituted under the prison disciplinary procedures for destroying state property. After a hearing, Palmer was found guilty on the charge and was ordered to reimburse the State for the cost of the material destroyed; in addition, a reprimand was entered on his prison record.

Palmer subsequently brought this pro se action in United States District Court under 42 U. S. C. § 1983. Respondent claimed that Hudson had conducted the shakedown search of his cell and had brought a false charge against him solely to harass him, and that, in violation of his Fourteenth Amendment right not to be deprived of property without due process of law, Hudson had intentionally destroyed certain of his non-contraband personal property during the September 16 search. Hudson denied each allegation; he moved for and was granted summary judgment. The District Court accepted respondent's allegations as true but held nonetheless, relying on Parratt v. Taylor, supra, that the alleged destruction of respondent's property, even if intentional, did not violate the Fourteenth Amendment because there were state tort remedies available to redress the deprivation, App. 31*fn1 and that the alleged harassment did not "rise to the level of a constitutional deprivation," id., at 32.

The Court of Appeals affirmed in part, reversed in part, and remanded for further proceedings. 697 F.2d 1220 (CA4 1983). The court affirmed the District Court's holding that respondent was not deprived of his property without due process. The court acknowledged that we considered only a claim of negligent property deprivation in Parratt v. Taylor, supra. It agreed with the District Court, however, that the logic of Parratt applies equally to unauthorized intentional deprivations of property by state officials: "[Once] it is assumed

[ 468 U.S. Page 521]

     that a post-deprivation remedy can cure an unintentional but negligent act causing injury, inflicted by a state agent which is unamendable to prior review, then that principle applies as well to random and unauthorized intentional acts." 697 F.2d, at 1223.*fn2 The Court of Appeals did not discuss the availability and adequacy of existing state-law remedies; it presumably accepted as correct the District Court's statement of the remedies available under Virginia law.*fn3

The Court of Appeals reversed the summary judgment on respondent's claim that the shakedown search was unreasonable. The court recognized that Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S. 520, 555-557 (1979), authorized irregular unannounced shakedown searches of prison cells. But the court held that an individual prisoner has a "limited privacy right" in his cell entitling him to protection against searches conducted solely to harass or to humiliate. 697 F.2d, at 1225.*fn4 The shakedown of a single prisoner's property, said the court, is permissible

[ 468 U.S. Page 522]

     only if "done pursuant to an established program of conducting random searches of single cells or groups of cells reasonably designed to deter or discover the possession of contraband" or upon reasonable belief that the particular prisoner possessed contraband. Id., at 1224. Because the Court of Appeals concluded that the record reflected a factual dispute over whether the search of respondent's cell was routine or conducted to harass respondent, it held that summary judgment was inappropriate, and that a remand was necessary to determine the purpose of the cell search.

We granted certiorari. 463 U.S. 1206 (1983). We affirm in part and reverse in part.



The first question we address is whether respondent has a right of privacy in his prison cell entitling him to the protection of the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable searches.*fn5 As we have noted, the Court of Appeals held that the District Court's summary judgment in petitioner's favor was premature because respondent had a "limited privacy right" in his cell that might have been breached. The court concluded that, to protect this privacy right, shakedown searches of an individual's cell should be performed only "pursuant to an established program of conducting random

[ 468 U.S. Page 523]

     searches . . . reasonably designed to deter or discover the possession of contraband" or upon reasonable belief that the prisoner possesses contraband. Petitioner contends that the Court of Appeals erred in holding that respondent had even a limited privacy right in his cell, and urges that we adopt the "bright line" rule that prisoners have no legitimate expectation of privacy in their individual cells that would entitle them to Fourth Amendment protection.

We have repeatedly held that prisons are not beyond the reach of the Constitution. No "iron curtain" separates one from the other. Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S. 539, 555 (1974). Indeed, we have insisted that prisoners be accorded those rights not fundamentally inconsistent with imprisonment itself or incompatible with the objectives of incarceration. For example, we have held that invidious racial discrimination is as intolerable within a prison as outside, except as may be essential to "prison security and discipline." Lee v. Washington, 390 U.S. 333 (1968) (per curiam). Like others, prisoners have the constitutional right to petition the Government for redress of their grievances, which includes a reasonable right of access to the courts. Johnson v. Avery, 393 U.S. 483 (1969).

Prisoners must be provided "reasonable opportunities" to exercise their religious freedom guaranteed under the First Amendment. Cruz v. Beto, 405 U.S. 319 (1972) (per curiam). Similarly, they retain those First Amendment rights of speech "not inconsistent with [their] status as . . . [prisoners] or with the legitimate penological objectives of the corrections system." Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S. 817, 822 (1974). They enjoy the protection of due process. Wolff v. McDonnell, supra; Haines v. Kerner, 404 U.S. 519 (1972). And the Eighth Amendment ensures that they will not be subject to "cruel and unusual punishments." Estelle v. Gamble, 429 U.S. 97 (1976). The continuing guarantee of these substantial rights to prison inmates is testimony to a belief that the way a society treats those who have transgressed

[ 468 U.S. Page 524]

     against it is evidence of the essential character of that society.

However, while persons imprisoned for crime enjoy many protections of the Constitution, it is also clear that imprisonment carries with it the circumscription or loss of many significant rights. See Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S., at 545. These constraints on inmates, and in some cases the complete withdrawal of certain rights, are "justified by the considerations underlying our penal system." Price v. Johnston, 334 U.S. 266, 285 (1948); see also Bell v. Wolfish, supra, at 545-546 and cases cited; Wolff v. McDonnell, supra, at 555. The curtailment of certain rights is necessary, as a practical matter, to accommodate a myriad of "institutional needs and objectives" of prison facilities, Wolff v. McDonnell, supra, at 555, chief among which is internal security, see Pell v. Procunier, supra, at 823. Of course, these restrictions or retractions also serve, incidentally, as reminders that, under our system of justice, deterrence and retribution are factors in addition to correction.

We have not before been called upon to decide the specific question whether the Fourth Amendment applies within a prison cell,*fn6 but the nature of our inquiry is well defined.

[ 468 U.S. Page 525]

     We must determine here, as in other Fourth Amendment contexts, if a "justifiable" expectation of privacy is at stake. Katz v. United States, 389 U.S. 347 (1967). The applicability of the Fourth Amendment turns on whether "the person invoking its protection can claim a 'justifiable,' a 'reasonable,' or a 'legitimate expectation of privacy' that has been invaded by government action." Smith v. Maryland, 442 U.S. 735, 740 (1979), and cases cited. We must decide, in Justice Harlan's words, whether a prisoner's expectation of privacy in his prison cell is the kind of expectation that "society is prepared to recognize as 'reasonable.'" Katz, supra, at 360, 361 (concurring opinion).*fn7

Notwithstanding our caution in approaching claims that the Fourth Amendment is inapplicable in a given context, we

[ 468 U.S. Page 526]

     hold that society is not prepared to recognize as legitimate any subjective expectation of privacy that a prisoner might have in his prison cell and that, accordingly, the Fourth Amendment proscription against unreasonable searches does not apply within the confines of the prison cell. The recognition of privacy rights for prisoners in their individual cells simply cannot be reconciled with the concept of incarceration and the needs and objectives of penal institutions.

Prisons, by definition, are places of involuntary confinement of persons who have a demonstrated proclivity for anti-social criminal, and often violent, conduct. Inmates have necessarily shown a lapse in ability to control and conform their behavior to the legitimate standards of society by the normal impulses of self-restraint; they have shown an inability to regulate their conduct in a way that reflects either a respect for law or an appreciation of the rights of others. Even a partial survey of the statistics on violent crime in our Nation's prisons illustrates the magnitude of the problem. During 1981 and the first half of 1982, there were over 120 prisoners murdered by fellow inmates in state and federal prisons. A number of prison personnel were murdered by prisoners during this period. Over 29 riots or similar disturbances were reported in these facilities for the same time frame. And there were over 125 suicides in these institutions. See Prison Violence, 7 Corrections Compendium (Mar. 1983). Additionally, informal statistics from the United States Bureau of Prisons show that in the federal system during 1983, there were 11 inmate homicides, 359 inmate assaults on other inmates, 227 inmate assaults on prison staff, and 10 suicides. There were in the same system in 1981 and 1982 over 750 inmate assaults on other inmates and over 570 inmate assaults on prison personnel.

Within this volatile "community," prison administrators are to take all necessary steps to ensure the safety of not only the prison staffs and administrative personnel, but also visitors. They are under an obligation to take reasonable

[ 468 U.S. Page 527]

     measures to guarantee the safety of the inmates themselves. They must be ever alert to attempts to introduce drugs and other contraband into the premises which, we can judicially notice, is one of the most perplexing problems of prisons today; they must prevent, so far as possible, the flow of illicit weapons into the prison; they must be vigilant to detect escape plots, in which drugs or weapons may be involved, before the schemes materialize. In addition to these monumental tasks, it is incumbent upon these officials at the same time to maintain as sanitary an environment for the inmates as feasible, given the difficulties of the circumstances.

The administration of a prison, we have said, is "at best an extraordinarily difficult undertaking." Wolff v. McDonnell, 418 U.S., at 566; Hewitt v. Helms, 459 U.S. 460, 467 (1983). But it would be literally impossible to accomplish the prison objectives identified above if inmates retained a right of privacy in their cells. Virtually the only place inmates can conceal weapons, drugs, and other contraband is in their cells. Unfettered access to these cells by prison officials, thus, is imperative if drugs and contraband are to be ferreted out and sanitary surroundings are to be maintained.

Determining whether an expectation of privacy is "legitimate" or "reasonable" necessarily entails a balancing of interests. The two interests here are the interest of society in the security of its penal institutions and the interest of the prisoner in privacy within his cell. The latter interest, of course, is already limited by the exigencies of the circumstances: A prison "shares none of the attributes of privacy of a home, an automobile, an office, or a hotel room." Lanza v. New York, 370 U.S. 139, 143-144 (1962). We strike the balance in favor of institutional security, which we have noted is "central to all other corrections goals," Pell v. Procunier, 417 U.S., at 823. A right of privacy in traditional Fourth Amendment terms is fundamentally incompatible with the close and continual surveillance of inmates and their cells

[ 468 U.S. Page 528]

     required to ensure institutional security and internal order.*fn8 We are satisfied that society would insist that the prisoner's expectation of privacy always yield to what must be considered the paramount interest in institutional security. We believe that it is accepted by our society that "[loss] of freedom of choice and privacy are inherent incidents of confinement." Bell v. Wolfish, 441 U.S., at 537.

The Court of Appeals was troubled by the possibility of searches conducted solely to harass inmates; it reasoned that a requirement that searches be conducted only pursuant to an established policy or upon reasonable suspicion would prevent such searches to the maximum extent possible. Of course, there is a risk of maliciously motivated searches, and of course, intentional harassment of even the most hardened criminals cannot be tolerated by a civilized society. However, we disagree with the court's proposed solution. The uncertainty that attends random searches of cells renders these searches perhaps the most effective weapon of the prison administrator in the constant fight against the proliferation of knives and guns, illicit drugs, and other contraband. The Court of Appeals candidly acknowledged that "the device [of random cell searches] is of . . . obvious utility in achieving the goal of prison security." 697 F.2d, at 1224.

[ 468 U.S. Page 529]

     A requirement that even random searches be conducted pursuant to an established plan would seriously undermine the effectiveness of this weapon. It is simply naive to believe that prisoners would not eventually decipher any plan officials might devise for "planned random searches," and thus be able routinely to anticipate searches. The Supreme Court of Virginia identified the shortcomings of an approach such as that adopted by the Court of Appeals and the necessity of allowing prison administrators flexibility:

"For one to advocate that prison searches must be conducted only pursuant to an enunciated general policy or when suspicion is directed at a particular inmate is to ignore the realities of prison operation. Random searches of inmates, individually or collectively, and their cells and lockers are valid and necessary to ensure the security of the institution and the safety of inmates and all others within its boundaries. This type of search allows prison officers flexibility and prevents inmates from anticipating, and thereby thwarting, a search for contraband." Marrero v. Commonwealth, 222 Va. 754, 757, 284 S. E. 2d 809, 811 (1981).

We share the concerns so well expressed by the Supreme Court and its view that wholly random searches are essential to the effective security of penal institutions. We, therefore, cannot accept even the concededly limited holding of the Court of Appeals.

Respondent acknowledges that routine shakedowns of prison cells are essential to the effective administration of prisons. Brief for Respondent and Cross-Petitioner 7, n. 5. He contends, however, that he is constitutionally entitled not to be subjected to searches conducted only to harass. The crux of his claim is that "because searches and seizures to harass are unreasonable, a prisoner has a reasonable expectation of privacy not to have his cell, locker, personal effects, person invaded for such a purpose." Id., at 24. This argument,

[ 468 U.S. Page 530]

     which assumes the answer to the predicate question whether a prisoner has a legitimate expectation of privacy in his prison cell at all, is merely a challenge to the reasonableness of the particular search of respondent's cell. Because we conclude that prisoners have no legitimate expectation of privacy and that the Fourth Amendment's ...

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