Rights to Procedural Due Process. The Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments prohibit the government from depriving an inmate of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. A violation of procedural due process requires (1) that the state has interfered with the inmate's protected liberty or property interest and (2) that procedural safeguards were constitutionally insufficient to protect against unjustified deprivations.

Protected liberty interests can be created by (1) the Due Process Clause of its own force; (2) a court order; and (3) state and federal statutes and regulations. A prisoner claiming deprivation of a state-created liberty interest must specify what regulation or statute created the interest. The court only will afford due process protection to an alleged state-created interest if the interest's restriction or deprivation either (1) creates an “atypical and significant hardship” by subjecting the prisoner to conditions much different from those ordinarily experienced by large numbers of inmates serving their sentences in the customary fashion or(2) inevitably affects the duration of the prisoner's sentence. Once a court determines that an interest is protected, it then determines what procedural safeguards due process requires. To do this, a court balances three factors: (1) the importance of the private interest affected, (2) the importance of the governmental interests affected (including the fiscal and administrative costs of the additional procedural requirements), and (3) the potential value of the additional procedural requirements (including any reduction in the risk of erroneous deprivations under current procedures).

Although these three factors generally must be balanced on a case-by-case basis, the Court has identified three circumstances in which specific procedures are constitutionally sufficient and, thus, do not require consideration of the three factors. First, the Court has approved specific procedures for deciding whether an inmate may be forcibly administered anti-psychotic drugs. Second, the Court has mandated certain procedures for deciding whether an inmate may be transferred from a prison to a mental hospital without consent. Third, an inmate may be deprived of good time credits at a disciplinary hearing as long as the hearing conforms to the requirements of due process.

In order to deprive a defendant of good time credits at a disciplinary hearing, several procedural safeguards must occur. The defendant must receive twenty-four hour advanced written notice of a hearing on the claimed violation, an opportunity to be heard, including the ability to call witnesses and present evidence if that ability is consistent with institutional safety and correctional goals, and a written statement by the factfinder detailing the evidence relied upon and the reasons for the disciplinary action. Due process also requires that “some evidence” supports the disciplinary board's decision to deprive an inmate of good time credits. Finally, prison officials must provide an explanation if they refuse to allow an inmate to call a witness at a disciplinary hearing, and the explanation must be logically related to institutional safety or correctional goals.

Due process does not require prison officials to reveal an informant's identity to the inmate, but an informant's testimony must have sufficient indicia (proof) of reliability.

Courts require even greater procedural protections if a disciplinary hearing could result in parole revocation. In addition to the minimum protections outlined in Wolff v. McDonnell, parole revocation proceedings must allow a prisoner the opportunity to cross-examine witnesses and, under some circumstances, to receive the assistance of counsel. Pre-parole conditional supervision programs are sufficiently similar to parole so as to require the same due process protections.

A prisoner who suffers personal injury or loss of property may bring a procedural due process claim against the state. To prevail on such a claim, the prisoner must allege that a prison official acted knowingly, oppressively, or abusively. Negligent conduct by officials toward prisoners or their property does not give rise to a procedural due process claim, even if no remedy exists under state law. Moreover, unauthorized and intentional deprivations of property in state prisons only violate due process if state law fails to provide an adequate post-deprivation remedy. Where security concerns exist, however, prison officials may determine which items prisoners may or may not possess.