[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 haven’t 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 
case page.

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.

Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110

415 863-9977

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