[Ppnews] Daniel McGowan and US Political Prisons

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Apr 16 10:11:12 EDT 2010

U.S. Political Prisons

by Robert Meeropol

Rosenberg Fund for Children

I first heard of Daniel McGowan (www.supportdaniel.org)
several years ago. He's one of more than a dozen "green
scare defendants" now serving time in Federal prison. During
the 1990's several groups of young, militant environmental
and animal rights activists engaged in property destruction
actions such as burning SUV's or destroying a horse
slaughterhouse. After the passage of the USA PATRIOT Act,
and more recently, the Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act,
federal prosecutors have been arresting those supposedly
involved, treating them as domestic terrorists even though
no people or animals were killed or even injured in any of
their actions, and imposing long prison sentences upon them.

Daniel, at the time of his arrest, was a progressive
activist in New York City, who had "walked away from these
kind of actions a long time ago,"
[www.supportdaniel.org/faq]. While in prison he maintained
contact with a large community of supporters and continued
to write about progressive issues. He first contacted the
Rosenberg Fund for Children (RFC, www.rfc.org) not on his
own behalf (he and his wife have no children), but to
suggest other political prisoners with children the RFC
might support. Daniel is one of those people who look beyond
themselves no matter what their circumstance to figure out
ways to help others.

Apparently his jailors didn't approve. They transferred
Daniel to their new Communications Management Unit (CMU) in
Marion, Illinois. This occurred despite the fact the Daniel
had no in-prison infractions to justify such action.
Daniel's new "crime" seems to be his contact with his
political support group and his continued exercise of his
first amendment rights.

The Center for Constitutional Rights describes these
political prisons on their website. "In 2006 and 2007, the
[Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP)] secretly created two
experimental prison units designed to isolate certain
prisoners from the rest of the prison population and the
outside world. These units are called Communications
Management Units or CMUs, and despite the fact that their
creation marked a dramatic change in BOP policy, they were
opened without the required opportunity for public notice
and comment." [
holder- et-al]

The BOP has long housed some political prisoners in lockdown
facilities of this nature, but had limited such draconian
conditions of confinement to those it claimed were the most
violent and dangerous criminals. These new CMU units are not
designed to house maximum security prisoners. Instead they
are social and political control experiments that Wardens
can use to isolate "average" prisoners who are outspoken or
have the wrong religion. Inmates at the CMU are only allowed
limited communication with the outside world, and to see
loved ones through plexi-glass barriers and talk via phone

Daniel's community of support has not taken his transfer to
the CMU passively. The "Friends of Daniel McGowan" group
(see www.supportdaniel.org and the "Support Daniel McGowan"
Facebook Group) organized an art auction that drew public
attention to his situation, and that of others (over 60% of
them Muslim) held at the CMU. At Daniel's request, 50% of
the funds raised by the group, over $1,000, was donated to
the RFC's Granting Fund. Daniel wrote in explanation:
"Although we do not have children ourselves, we have 6
nieces and the pain I feel being separated from them is
great. I truly can't imagine what it would be like if I had
children - especially in this unit without contact visits."

This struck a deep chord in me. If these rules had been
applied to my parents after their arrest I would have no
conscious memory of their touch or their voices. The only
clear memories I have is from those few precious hours we
spent together during a dozen or so prison visits I had with

And the family connection runs deeper. I was surprised while
viewing a slide show of the art exhibit Daniel's wife helped
to organize, to see my younger daughter, Rachel (who is a
staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights),
speaking at the opening! Earlier this week Rachel and
another CCR attorney filed suit in Federal District Court in
Washington, DC on behalf of Daniel McGowan, another
political prisoner connected with the RFC, and others,
claiming the CMUs violated the prisoners' first amendment
and due process rights because they are confined in this
extra punitive detention "without legitimate reason or
meaningful process, [and . ] in retaliation for their
protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or
lawful advocacy challenging rights violations in prison."

I'm proud to link my family and my community to those of
Daniel McGowan.

[Robert Meeropol is the younger son of Ethel and Julius
Rosenberg. In 1953, when he was six years old, the United
States Government executed his parents for "conspiring to
steal the secret of the atomic bomb." Since 1990 he has
served as the Executive Director of the Rosenberg Fund for
Children (www.rfc.org), a non-profit, public foundation that
provides for the educational and emotional needs of both
targeted activist youth and children in this country whose
parents have been harassed, injured, jailed, lost jobs or
died in the course of their progressive activities.]

Freedom Archives
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San Francisco, CA 94110
415 863-9977

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