McKune v. Lile,
536 U.S. 24 (2002)

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No. 00-1187. Argued November 28, 2001-Decided June 10,2002

Respondent was convicted of rape and related crimes. A few years before his scheduled release, Kansas prison officials ordered respondent to participate in a Sexual Abuse Treatment Program (SATP). As part of the program, participating inmates are required to complete and sign an "Admission of Responsibility" form, in which they accept responsibility for the crimes for which they have been sentenced, and complete a sexual history form detailing all prior sexual activities, regardless of whether the activities constitute uncharged criminal offenses. The information obtained from SATP participants is not privileged, and might be used against them in future criminal proceedings. There is no evidence, however, that incriminating information has ever been disclosed under the SATP. Officials informed respondent that if he refused to participate in the SATP, his prison privileges would be reduced, resulting in the automatic curtailment of his visitation rights, earnings, work opportunities, ability to send money to family, canteen expenditures, access to a personal television, and other privileges. He also would be transferred to a potentially more dangerous maximum-security unit. Respondent refused to participate in the SATP on the ground that the required disclosures of his criminal history would violate his Fifth Amendment privilege against compelled self-incrimination. He brought this action for injunctive relief under 42 U. S. C. § 1983. The District Court granted him summary judgment. Affirming, the Tenth Circuit held that the compelled self-incrimination prohibited by the Fifth Amendment can be established by penalties that do not constitute deprivations of protected liberty interests under the Due Process Clause; ruled that the automatic reduction in respondent's prison privileges and housing accommodations was such a penalty because of its substantial impact on him; declared that respondent's information would be sufficiently incriminating because an admission of culpability regarding his crime of conviction would create a risk of a perjury prosecution; and concluded that, although the SATP served Kansas' important interests in rehabilitating sex offenders and promoting public safety, those interests could be served without violating the Constitution by treating inmate admissions as privileged or by granting inmates use immunity.

Held: The judgment is reversed, and the case is remanded. 224 F.3d 1175, reversed and remanded.


JUSTICE KENNEDY, joined by THE CHIEF JUSTICE, JUSTICE SCALIA, and JUSTICE THOMAS, concluded that the SATP serves a vital penological purpose, and that offering inmates minimal incentives to participate does not amount to compelled self-incrimination prohibited by the Fifth Amendment. Pp. 32-48.

(a) The SATP is supported by the legitimate penological objective of rehabilitation. The SATP lasts 18 months; involves substantial daily counseling; and helps inmates address sexual addiction, understand the thoughts, feelings, and behavior dynamics that precede their offenses, and develop relapse prevention skills. Pp. 32-34.

(b) The mere fact that Kansas does not offer legal immunity from prosecution based on statements made in the course of the SATP does not render the program invalid. No inmate has ever been charged or prosecuted for any offense based on such information, and there is no contention that the program is a mere subterfuge for the conduct of a criminal investigation. Rather, the refusal to offer use immunity serves two legitimate state interests: (1) The potential for additional punishment reinforces the gravity of the participants' offenses and thereby aids in their rehabilitation; and (2) the State confirms its valid interest in deterrence by keeping open the option to prosecute a particularly dangerous sex offender. Pp. 34-35.

(c) The SATP, and the consequences for nonparticipation in it, do not combine to create a compulsion that encumbers the constitutional right not to incriminate oneself. Pp. 35-47.

(1) The prison context is important in weighing respondent's constitutional claim: A broad range of choices that might infringe constitutional rights in a free society fall within the expected conditions of confinement of those lawfully convicted. The limitation on prisoners' privileges and rights also follows from the need to grant necessary authority and capacity to officials to administer the prisons. See, e. g., Turner v. Safley, 482 U. S. 78. The Court's holding in Sandin v. Conner, 515 U. S. 472,484, that challenged prison conditions cannot give rise to a due process violation unless they constitute "atypical and significant hardship[s] on [inmates] in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life," may not provide a precise parallel for determining whether there is compelled self-incrimination, but does provide useful instruction. A prison clinical rehabilitation program, which is acknowledged to bear a rational relation to a legitimate penological objective, does not violate the privilege against compelled self-incrimination if the adverse consequences an inmate faces for not participating are related to the program objectives and do not constitute atypical and significant hardships in relation to the ordinary incidents of prison life. Cf., e. g., Baxter v. Palmigiano, 425 U. S. 308, 319-320. Pp. 35-38.

Full Text of Opinion

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