Grace Li


Incarcerated people create, lead, and participate in a variety of associations in prison. These associations educate and advocate for members, serve the broader prison population, cultivate social bonds, and promote the individual growth that happens in relationship with others. The associations do so in the face of byzantine regulations that burden their formation, membership, and operations. These rules go unchecked because the constitutional right of association is under protected in prisons. The deferential Turner v. Safley test for rights violations in prison prizes ease of prison administration over rights protection. Thus, though the right of association is a fundamental constitutional right, in prison it does not enjoy the level of protection of a fundamental right.

This Article builds a conceptual framework of associations in prison. It provides a typology of the organizations that exist in prisons today. Most of these operate as they would on the outside, as part of civil society, which fills gaps in government provision. The Article also explores the kinds of effects the associations have on members, which are democracyenhancing in nature as well as communitarian and liberal. The Article then maps the types of limitations imposed on the groups by regulations and rules. By examining the unique challenges produced by and faced by these associations, the Article shows that broader associational jurisprudence can better protect fundamental aspects of associations by grappling with issues that arise in the unique context of incarceration.



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