The United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that our precedents clearly establish that a prisoner is in custody within the meaning of Miranda v. Arizona, 384 U. S. 436 (1966), if the prisoner is taken aside and questioned about events that occurred outside the prison walls. Our decisions, however, do not clearly establish such a rule, and therefore the Court of Appeals erred in holding that this rule provides a permissible basis for federal habeas relief under the relevant provision of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996(AEDPA), 28 U. S. C. §2254(d)(1). Indeed, the rule applied by the court below does not represent a correct interpretation of our Miranda case law. We therefore reverse.
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. . . If a break in custody can occur while a prisoner is serving an uninterrupted term of imprisonment, it must follow that imprisonment alone is not enough to create a custodial situation within the meaning of Miranda.
There are at least three strong grounds for this conclusion. First, questioning a person who is already serving a prison term does not generally involve the shock that very often accompanies arrest. In the paradigmatic Miranda situation—a person is arrested in his home or on the street and whisked to a police station for questioning—detention represents a sharp and ominous change, and the shock may give rise to coercive pressures. A person who is“cut off from his normal life and companions,” Shatzer, supra, at ___ (slip op., at 7), and abruptly transported from the street into a “police-dominated atmosphere,” Miranda, 384 U. S., at 456, may feel coerced into answering questions.
By contrast, when a person who is already serving a term of imprisonment is questioned, there is usually no such change. “Interrogated suspects who have previously been convicted of crime live in prison.” Shatzer, 559 U. S., at ___ (slip op., at 14). . . . .
Second, a prisoner, unlike a person who has not been sentenced to a term of incarceration, is unlikely to be lured into speaking by a longing for prompt release. . . . .
Third, a prisoner, unlike a person who has not been convicted and sentenced, knows that the law enforcement officers who question him probably lack the authority to affect the duration of his sentence. . . . .
In short, standard conditions of confinement and associated restrictions on freedom will not necessarily implicate the same interests that the Court sought to protect when it afforded special safeguards to persons subjected to custodial interrogation. Thus, service of a term of imprisonment, without more, is not enough to constitute Miranda custody.
The two other elements included in the Court of Appeals’ rule—questioning in private and questioning about events that took place outside the prison—are likewise insufficient. Taking a prisoner aside for questioning—as opposed to questioning the prisoner in the presence of fellow inmates—does not necessarily convert a “noncustodial situation . . . to one in which Miranda applies.” Mathiason, 429
U. S., at 495. When a person who is not serving a prison term is questioned, isolation may contribute to a coercive atmosphere by preventing family members, friends, and others who may be sympathetic from providing either advice or emotional support. And without any such assistance, the person who is questioned may feel overwhelming pressure to speak and to refrain from asking that the interview be terminated.
By contrast, questioning a prisoner in private does not generally remove the prisoner from a supportive atmosphere. Fellow inmates are by no means necessarily friends. On the contrary, they may be hostile and, for a variety of reasons, may react negatively to what the questioning reveals. In the present case, for example, would respondent have felt more at ease if he had been questioned in the presence of other inmates about the sexual abuse of an adolescent boy? Isolation from the general prison population is often in the best interest of the interviewee and, in any event, does not suggest on its own the atmosphere of coercion that concerned the Court in Miranda.
It is true that taking a prisoner aside for questioning may necessitate some additional limitations on his freedom of movement. A prisoner may, for example, be removed from an exercise yard and taken, under close guard, to the room where the interview is to be held. But such procedures are an ordinary and familiar attribute of life behind bars. Escorts and special security precautions may be standard procedures regardless of the purpose for which an inmate is removed from his regular routine and taken to a special location. For example, ordinary prison procedure may require such measures when a prisoner is led to a meeting with an attorney.
Finally, we fail to see why questioning about criminal activity outside the prison should be regarded as having a significantly greater potential for coercion than questioning under otherwise identical circumstances about criminal activity within the prison walls. In both instances, there is the potential for additional criminal liability and punishment. If anything, the distinction would seem tocut the other way, as an inmate who confesses to misconduct that occurred within the prison may also incur administrative penalties, but even this is not enough to tip the scale in the direction of custody.
When a prisoner is questioned, the determination of custody should focus on all of the features of the interrogation. These include the language that is used in summoning the prisoner to the interview and the manner in which the interrogation is conducted. See Yarborough, 541 U. S., at 665. An inmate who is removed from the general prison population for questioning and is “thereafter . . . subjected to treatment” in connection with the interrogation “that renders him ‘in custody’ for practical purposes . . . will be entitled to the full panoply of protections prescribed by Miranda.” Berkemer, 468 U. S., at 440.
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For these reasons, the Court of Appeals’ categorical rule is unsound.
The record in this case reveals that respondent was not taken into custody for purposes of Miranda. To be sure, respondent did not invite the interview or consent to it in advance, and he was not advised that he was free to decline to speak with the deputies. The following facts also lend some support to respondent’s argument that Miranda’s custody requirement was met: The interview lasted for between five and seven hours in the evening and continued well past the hour when respondent generally went to bed; the deputies who questioned respondent were armed; and one of the deputies, according to respondent, “[u]sed a very sharp tone,” . . . and, on one occasion, profanity. . . . These circumstances, however, were offset by others. Most important, respondent was told at the outset of the interrogation, and was reminded again thereafter, that he could leave and go back to his cell whenever he wanted. . . . (“I was told I could get up and leave whenever I wanted”); . . .. Moreover, respondent was not physically restrained or threatened and was interviewed in a well-lit, average-sized conference room, where he was “not uncomfortable.” . . .He was offered food and water, and the door to the conference room was sometimes left open. . . . “All of these objective facts are consistent with an interrogation environment in which a reasonable person would have felt free to terminate the interview and leave.” Yarborough, supra, at 664–665.
Because he was in prison, respondent was not free to leave the conference room by himself and to make his own way through the facility to his cell. Instead, he was escorted to the conference room and, when he ultimately decided to end the interview, he had to wait about 20 minutes for a corrections officer to arrive and escort him to his cell. But he would have been subject to this same restraint even if he had been taken to the conference room for some reason other than police questioning; under no circumstances could he have reasonably expected to be able to roam free. [Footnote omitted.] And while respondent testified that he “was told . . . if I did not want to cooperate, I needed to go back to my cell,” these words did not coerce cooperation by threatening harsher conditions. App. to Pet. for Cert. 71a; see id., at 89a (“I was told, if I didn’t want to cooperate, I could leave”). Returning to his cell would merely have returned him to his usual environment. . . . .
Taking into account all of the circumstances of the questioning—including especially the undisputed fact that respondent was told that he was free to end the questioning and to return to his cell—we hold that respondent was not in custody within the meaning of Miranda.
ROBERTS, C. J., and SCALIA, KENNEDY, THOMAS, and KAGAN, JJ., joined.
GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, in which BREYER and SOTOMAYOR, JJ., joined:
. . . I disagree with the Court’s further determination that Fields was not in custody under Miranda. Were the case here on direct review, I would vote to hold that Miranda precludes the State’s introduction of Fields’s confession as evidence against him.