Due Process in Prison: Protecting Inmates’ Property After Sandin v. Conner

By: Kaitlin Cassel

In 1995, the Supreme Court, in Sandin v. Conner, altered the standard by which federal courts determine when due process attaches to prisoners’ liberty interests. This new standard recognizes prisoners’ liberty interests only upon a showing of an “atypical and significant” deprivation, thereby significantly curtailing the ability of prisoners to claim due process violations of liberty interests. Since then, federal courts have disagreed on whether the new standard should extend to prisoners’ property interests. This Note examines the circuit split on the application of Sandin v. Conner to prisoners’ property interests and argues that, while the Sandin standard may be appropriate as applied to liberty, it should not extend to property. Part I explains the development of due process protections both within and without the prison context before turning to the Supreme Court decision, Sandin v. Conner. Part II examines the split among the circuits concerning Sandin’s application to inmates’ property interests under the Due Process Clause. Finally, Part III argues that in light of the differences in the development of due process protections for liberty and those for property, as well as the Sandin Court’s analysis, Sandin should be limited to liberty interests, as the standard does not logically apply to property.

 

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