Are R-Rated Movies Allowed In Prison ?

In Wolf v. Ashcroft, 297 F.3d 305 (3d Cir. 2002), federal prisoners challenged in federal district court a Bureau of Prison (BOP) policy that prohibits the viewing of movies rated R or NC-17 in prison.

The district court, relying on common sense, granted judgment on the pleadings.

The prisoners appealed to the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (Third Circuit), which reversed and remanded.

The Third Circuit stated that, although the connection between a prohibition and a government interest may be a matter of common sense in certain instances, there may be situations in which the connection is not so apparent and does require factual development.

Whether the requisite connection may be found solely on the basis of "common sense" will depend on the nature of the right, the nature of the interest asserted, the nature of the prohibition, and the obviousness of its connection to the proffered interest.

The showing required will vary depending on how close the court perceives the connection to be....

On remand, the District Court must describe the interest served, consider whether the connection between the policy and the interest is obvious or attenuated -- and, thus, to what extent some foundation or evidentiary showing is necessary -- and, in light of this determination, evaluate what the government has offered. Wolf, 297 F.3d at 308-09.