[Pnews] The Bureau of Prisons tightens the rules at its secretive “Communication Management Units.”

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Thu Jan 29 16:56:43 EST 2015

  Another Kind of Isolation

        The Bureau of Prisons tightens the rules at its secretive
        “Communication Management Units.”

By Christie Thompson 

In 2006 and 2008, the Bureau of Prisons quietly created new restrictive 
units for terrorists or other inmates they feared might coordinate 
crimes from behind bars. The Communication Management Units (CMUs) were 
designed to more tightly monitor and restrict inmates’ communication 
with the outside world. The units, at Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, 
Illinois, operated largely in secret, without any formal policies or 
procedures in place — until last week.

On January 22, the Bureau of Prisons finalized rules 
that had been nearly five years in the making regarding who can be sent 
to the CMUs and how the facilities should operate. But prisoner 
advocates claim the new rules impose even stricter limits on contact 
without providing a legitimate way for inmates to appeal being placed 
under such restrictions.

“What this rule does is codify the harsh communication restrictions in 
place,” said Alexis Agathocleous, senior staff attorney at the Center 
for Constitutional Rights and lead counsel in a federal lawsuit 
over the units. “What [it] doesn’t do is correct numerous procedural 
violations. When you draw your designation criteria so broadly and you 
don’t have robust processes for prisoners to protest, you create a 
situation that’s ripe for abuse.”

The Bureau of Prisons did not respond to a request for comment.

Under the new policy, prisoners may be limited to as few as three 
15-minute calls a month, down from the current two calls a week. The 
Bureau can also cut the time inmates spend with visiting loved ones from 
the current eight hours to four hours a month. (All visits are strictly 
no-contact.) Prison officials can now limit those calls and visits to 
immediate family. And for the first time, the Bureau has given itself 
the option of limiting the volume of mail to six, double-sided pages a 
week. These limits are less severe than what the Bureau proposed in 2010 
but more limiting than what inmates currently receive 

“Reducing the volume of communications helps ensure the Bureau’s ability 
to provide heightened scrutiny in reviewing communications,” the Bureau 
in their release of the new policy.

Inmates and their lawyers have criticized the units — now known to many 
as “Little Guantanamo” — for targeting Muslims. Data compiled by the 
Center for Constitutional Rights 
found that roughly 60 percent of all inmates placed in the CMUs are 
Muslim (including many convicted of crimes unrelated to terrorism), 
compared to six percent of the overall federal prison population.

When issuing the new rules, prison officials responded to allegations of 
profiling. “The Bureau does not use religion or political affiliation as 
a criterion for designation to CMUs,” they wrote 
“The Bureau, acting on a case-by-case basis, may designate an inmate to 
a CMU for heightened monitoring for any of the reasons 
articulated...This valid legitimate penological purpose negates a claim 
of a Bureau-wide conspiracy to discriminate against Muslims.”

Other inmates claim they were sent there for being too politically 
active within prison, or serving as “jailhouse lawyers” by giving other 
inmates legal advice. The final criteria for who should be transferred 
to these units includes anyone with “substantiated/credible evidence of 
a potential threat to the safe, secure, and orderly operation of prison 
facilities...as a result of the inmate’s communication with persons in 
the community.”

Compared to other high-security federal prisons, inmates being sent to 
the CMUs have far fewer opportunities to protest their placement. 
Prisoners who are transferred to the federal supermax prison in 
Florence, Colo., for example, are given advance notice and a 
pre-transfer hearing during which they can present evidence and call 
witnesses on their behalf.

Meanwhile, inmates moving to the CMUs are given no advance warning, and 
officials don’t have to explain the transfers. Inmates who want to 
appeal must do so through the prison’s administrative remedy program, 
the standard procedure to file any written complaint.

In the new rules, prison officials reasoned that the units aren’t 
restrictive enough to require the same due process, and that the 
administrative appeal is an adequate way for prisoners to petition their 

No inmate has ever successfully earned release from the CMU through this 

Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
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