[Pnews] Prisoners’ Rights Attorneys Press Constitutional Challenge to Experimental Prison Units (CMUs)

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Oct 28 16:33:45 EDT 2015

*Prisoners’ Rights Attorneys Press Constitutional Challenge to 
Experimental Prison Units*
Jen Nessel, jnessel at ccrjustice.org
October 28, 2015, Washington, D.C. –

Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights appealed a district court 
ruling in a case challenging the constitutionality of the Bureau of 
Prisons’ (BOP) secretive, highly-restrictive Communications Management 
Units (CMU). In 2014, CCR’s lawsuit, Aref v. Holder, uncovered hundreds 
of documents detailing the BOP’s process for designating prisoners to 
CMUs. Among other issues, the documents revealed that the BOP did not 
draft criteria for designating prisoners to the CMUs until three years 
after the first unit opened; that different BOP offices tasked with 
designating prisoners have different understandings of the criteria; 
that the reasons provided to CMU prisoners for their designation are 
incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes even false; and that political 
speech exercised by prisoners was used as a factor in their CMU 
designation. In its ruling, the district court did not consider these 
documents, instead finding that the CMUs are not sufficiently unusual, 
harsh, or restrictive to trigger due process rights.
“The Bureau of Prisons has kept everything about their Communications 
Management Units opaque—from how you end up there to how you get out,” 
said plaintiff Daniel McGowan. “I only learned through this lawsuit that 
I was sent to the CMU because I continued to care about politics when I 
was incarcerated and because I wrote letters to my friends on the 
outside about social justice issues. Other people in the CMUs should 
have the right to learn why they were actually sent there, too.”
In addition to having their telephone and visitation access heavily 
restricted, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact 
with family members, forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their 
children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on 
contact visitation is unique in the federal prison system and causes 
suffering to people in prison and their families.
“Communications Management Units impose harsh restrictions on prisoners’ 
communication with their families and with fellow prisoners for years at 
a time,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney 
Rachel Meeropol. “All we are seeking is an explanation of why these 
prisoners are being singled out for such a restrictive unit, and the 
chance to contest false or retaliatory placements.”
In addition to appealing the district court’s due process ruling, CCR is 
also appealing adverse rulings on their claims that prisoners were held 
in the CMUs in retaliation for First Amendment protected political and 
religious speech.
The CMUs were quietly opened in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, 
Illinois, in 2006 and 2008, respectively, to monitor and control the 
communications of certain prisoners and isolate them from other 
prisoners and the outside world. Sixty percent of CMU prisoners are 
Muslim, though Muslims comprise only six percent of the federal prisoner 
The documents uncovered in CCR’s lawsuit were described in detail in a 
recent TED Talk by journalist Will Potter.
For more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR’s case page 
For more on the Center for Constitutional Rights work on mass 
incarceration, visit our issue page.
The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher 
are co-counsel in the case.

Read the brief - 
Freedom Archives 522 Valencia Street San Francisco, CA 94110 415 
863.9977 www.freedomarchives.org

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