State-Created Liberty Interest in Prisons: What the Court Giveth, The Court also Taketh Away

The Prison Journal (Impact Factor: 0.4). 09/1996; 76(3):348-372. DOI: 10.1177/0032855596076003007


The concept of state-created liberty interest has been a part of postconviction jurisprudence for more than 2 decades. When agencies limit their actions through state law, agency rules, or self-imposed regulations, those limitations must be observed; invoking due process where none otherwise constitutionally exists. The article looks at a 1995 United States Supreme Court decision that has had a significant impact on this concept. Sandin v. Conner rejects the “language used” approach to determine whether a state-created liberty interest exists, in favor of the “nature of the deprivation.” This article examines the evolution of state-created liberty interest, what the Court said in Sandin v. Conner, how federal courts of appeals have thus far interpreted Sandin, the problems it has created, and the unresolved issues that have yet to be addressed. It concludes that although due process in prisons is far from dead, Sandin has certainly diminished it.

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