Stop Isolating Prisoners in Experimental Units

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Synopsis

In 2010 and again in 2014, the Center for Constitutional Rights and a large coalition of organizations and concerned individuals came together to flood the Bureau of Prisons with public feedback around experimental prison units.

Noor Elashi, daughter of a man being held in isolation in a CMU (Communications Management Unit), speaks about the difficult and unfair circumstances of her father's treatment.

Description

From April to June 2010, the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) opened up a first period for public comment around the establishment of two Communications Management Units (CMUs), prison units designed to isolate and segregate certain prisoners in the federal prison system from the rest of the BOP population.

Click here to read the comments that the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent to the BOP in 2010.

Individuals detained in the CMUs are mostly Muslim and are limited in their communications and contact to the outside world. This occurs without  meaningful process or any disclosure of a legitimate reason for CMU designation, but rather in retaliation for their protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or lawful advocacy challenging rights violations in prison.

The BOP noted it would take final action on the CMUs by October 2011 (learn more here). In March 2014, the BOP re-opened a second period for public comment, and 435 comments were submitted, demonstrating once again that people remain just as opposed to these isolated, restrictive, and discriminatory prison units as they did in 2010.

A Selection of Submitted Comments from 2010


In response to the 2010 call for public comment, CCR, CMU prisoners, their family members and friends, civil rights and civil liberties groups, legal providers, psychologists, former corrections officers, environmental advocacy organizations, criminal defense attorneys, community and faith-based organizations and concerned individuals came together to urge the federal Bureau of Prisons to close the experimental prison units.

The following selection of submitted comments represents the breadth of opposition to the CMUs. A full collection of comments is available on the Bureau’s website at: http://www.regulations.gov/.

  • Complete volume of Comments submitted by concerned organizations, groups and individuals.
  • Comment Submitted by CCR: "CCR submits these comments to advise the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of the discriminatory, arbitrary, and cruel way the CMUs currently function, and to urge the BOP to fundamentally rethink its plan to continue to segregate and isolate certain prisoners without proper procedural protections. CCR also urges the BOP to immediately cease restricting CMU prisoners' ability to meaningfully communicate with their family and friends without individualized security justifications that are both disclosed and properly reviewed."
  • Comments Submitted by Community and Faith-Based Organizations: "[I]t is clear that the Bureau’s proposed regulations perpetuate post-9/11 targeting of, and discrimination toward Muslims in the name of counterterrorism and national security. The overly broad and vague criteria by which inmates get designated, the lack of process for designation and review, and the high proportion of Muslim inmates in CMUs suggest that individuals are sent to CMUs for illegitimate and discriminatory reasons."
  • Comments Submitted by Concerned Individuals: "The CMUs...deny children any meaningful relationship with their incarcerated parents. Improving prison conditions and communication for families of prisoners is necessary for the healthy development of children with incarcerated parents. I urge the BOP to abandon the CMUs altogether or to at least allow for regular and direct communication, contact and visitation with families and children of inmates."
  • Comments Submitted by the NYU Brennan Center and Former Corrections Officers: "Corrections officials can – and should – limit inmates’ communications as necessary to preserve order in prisons, to protect the safety of inmates and staff, and to block communications that could facilitate crime. Overly restrictive limitations, however, are counterproductive.... they make prisons more dangerous, increase recidivism, and harm inmates and their families."
  • Comments Submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union and Civil Rights Organizations: "The proposed regulation's severe restrictions on communications with the news media and with most family members are unprecedented and almost certainly unconstitutional. The ban on confidential communication with consular officials violates US treaty obligations. Moreover, these restrictions will be imposed by prison officials, with no outside review, applying criteria that are so vague as to provide no meaningful limits on official discretion."
  • Comments Submitted by the Civil Rights Clinic at University of Denver College of Law: "...CMUs are unnecessary because existing law permits the Bureau to monitor and restrict prisoners' communications when the Government deems it necessary to do so."
  • Comments by the Civil Liberties Defense Center "BOP’s proposed rule remains unconstitutional and is a back door attempt to correct the unlawful creation of the CMU now that litigation has been filed to challenge it. We urge the BOP to reject this proposed rule and terminate the CMU designation immediately, thus restoring the constitutional rights of those subjected to it."