RICHMOND, Va. -

A federal appeals court in Virginia is considering whether prisoners have a constitutional right to visitation.

A three-judge panel of the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond heard oral arguments in the South Carolina case Tuesday.

Jerome Williams' visitation privileges were suspended for two years based on the suspicion that a visitor passed contraband to him. No contraband was found, and Williams was not charged with a disciplinary violation. The warden of Evans Correctional Institution imposed the suspension anyway.

Williams' lawyer told the appeals court inmates do not surrender their constitutional rights just because they are incarcerated. A lawyer for the warden argued that visitation is a privilege, not a constitutional right.

The court usually takes several weeks to issue a ruling.