[Ppnews] CCR Challenges Experimental Prison Units
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Mar 31 14:34:11 EDT 2010
CCR Challenges Experimental Prison Units that
Restrict Communication and Forbid Physical
Contact with Family Without Due Process
Segregated Federal Units Target Muslims, Activists
CONTACT: press at ccrjustice.org
March 30, 2010, New York Today, the Center for
Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit
challenging violations of fundamental
constitutional rights, including the right to due
process, at two experimental federal prison units
called Communications Management Units (CMUs).
The units are being used overwhelmingly to hold
Muslim prisoners and prisoners with unpopular political beliefs.
CCR filed Aref v. Holder in the D.C. District
Court on behalf of five current and former
prisoners of the units in Terre Haute, IN and
Marion, IL; two other plaintiffs are the spouses
of prisoners. The CMUs were secretly opened under
the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007
respectively and were designed to monitor and
control the communications of certain prisoners
and to isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.
Transfers to the CMU are not explained; nor are
prisoners told how release into less restrictive
confinement may be earned as there is no review
process. Lawyers say that because these transfers
are not based on facts or discipline for
infractions, a pattern of religious and political
discrimination and retaliation for prisoners
lawful advocacy has emerged. The five plaintiffs
in Aref were designated to the two CMUs despite
having relatively or totally clean disciplinary
histories, and none of the plaintiffs have
received any communications-related disciplinary
infractions in the last decade. Several of the
plaintiffs expect to serve the entire remaining
duration of their sentences at the CMU.
These units are an experiment in social
isolation, said CCR Attorney Alexis
Agathocleous. People are being put in these
extraordinarily restrictive units without being
told why and without any meaningful review.
Dispensing with due process creates a situation
ripe for abuse; in this case, it has allowed for
a pattern of religious profiling, retaliation and
arbitrary punishment. This is precisely what the
rule of law and the Constitution forbid.
In addition to heavily restricted telephone and
visitation access, CMU prisoners are
categorically denied any physical contact with
family members and are forbidden from hugging,
touching or embracing their children or spouses
during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on
contact visitation, which is unique in the
federal prison system, not only causes suffering
to the families of the incarcerated men, but is a
violation of fundamental constitutional rights.
Said the 14-year-old daughter of one of the
prisoners in the lawsuit, The thing that hurts
the most is that I can hear him but I can never
touch him. I havent hugged, kissed or held my dad since December of 2007.
Between 65 and 72 percent of CMU prisoners are
Muslim men, a fact that attorneys say
demonstrates that the CMUs were created to allow
for the segregation and restrictive treatment of
Muslims based on the discriminatory belief that
such prisoners are more likely than others to
pose a threat to prison security.
Others prisoners appear to be transferred to the
CMU because of other protected First Amendment
activity, such as speaking out on social justice
issues or filing grievances in prison or court regarding conditions and abuse.
For more information on Aref v. Holder, visit
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated
to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed
by the United States Constitution and the
Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in
1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights
movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal
and educational organization committed to the
creative use of law as a positive force for social change.
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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