Freedoms of Speech, Association, and Religion. Prison officials may not interfere with prisoners' exercise of First Amendment rights unless the interference is reasonably related to a legitimate penological interest. Similarly, prison officials may not retaliate against a prisoner for exercising his or her First Amendment rights.

Prisoners also have the right to send and receive information, subject to limits “reasonably related” to legitimate penological interests. Specifically, incoming correspondence may be prohibited if it is “detrimental to the security, good order, or discipline of the institution or ... might facilitate criminal activity.” Outgoing correspondence is less likely to pose a threat to internal prison security, so any regulation or censorship must “further an important or substantial governmental interest” and be “no greater than is necessary” to protect that penological interest. Prison officials may prohibit correspondence between inmates at different facilities because of legitimate security concerns relating to the potential for communication regarding escape plans and other violent acts.

Prisoners in minimum or low-security institutions may receive hardcover books in the mail only from publishers, bookstores, or book clubs, but may receive softcover books from any source; prisoners in medium-security, high-security, or administrative institutions may receive both hardcover and softcover books only from publishers, bookstores, or book clubs.

Prisoners retain some freedom of communication and association, such as visitation rights, but these freedoms may be limited to advance legitimate penological concerns. A prisoner has no liberty interest in remaining at a particular facility, but prison officials may not transfer an inmate in retaliation for the exercise of a constitutionally protected right.

Prison officials must afford prisoners opportunities to exercise their religious freedom. Under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA), the government cannot “impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise” of an inmate unless it “(1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Under the First Amendment, prison regulations interfering with an inmate's free exercise of religion must be “reasonably related to legitimate penological interests” and are analyzed under the Turner factors. A prisoner claiming a violation of the right to religious freedom must establish that his or her beliefs are (1) sincere and (2) religious in nature. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment protects prisoners from forced participation in religious activities.