[Pnews] Appeals Court Rules for Prisoners in Challenge to Secretive Federal Prison Units - CMUs

Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Fri Aug 19 18:37:27 EDT 2016


  Court Rules for Prisoners in Challenge to Secretive Federal Prison Units

/August 19, 2016/

Today, the D.C. Court of Appeals reinstated a lawsuit challenging the 
Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) secretive Communications Management Units, or 
CMUs. Documents uncovered in the lawsuit revealed that prisoners are 
routinely sent to the units without meaningful explanation or other 
procedural protections, but rather in retaliation for their protected 
speech and religious practice in prison. However, the district court 
ruled that prisoners had no “liberty interest” in avoiding placement in 
a CMU – and thus did not need to receive any process at all before being 
sent to one – despite the severe communications restrictions, stigma, 
and years-long segregation that come with such placement. Today’s ruling 
means the district court will now have to review the prisoners’ evidence 
of extensive due process violations.

“Today’s ruling ensures that a court will finally rule on the 
previously-secret information we disclosed through this lawsuit, 
documents that show a pattern of discrimination and retaliation in CMU 
placements made possible by systemic due process violations,” said 
Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney*Rachel Meeropol* 
<http://ccrjustice.org/node/1731>. “The court’s decision makes clear 
that the BOP cannot simply send anyone they want to a CMU, for any 
reason, without explanation, for years on end.”

The district court will now have to consider CCR’s evidence that 
prisoners sent to CMUs have been denied due process. Government 
documents released through discovery 
show that, though the CMUs were quietly opened in Terre Haute, IN and 
Marion, IL in 2006 and 2008, respectively, the BOP did not draft 
criteria for designating prisoners to the facilities until 2009 
<http://ccrjustice.org/files/SJ%20-%20Exhibit%2046.pdf>. The documents 
also reveal that different offices within the BOP, each of which plays a 
role in the designation process, have different understandings of those 

Decision-makers are not required to, and do not, document their reasons 
for selecting a prisoner for CMU placement, making it effectively 
impossible for prisoners to challenge their designation. Other documents 
revealed that the reasons provided 
<http://ccrjustice.org/files/SJ%20-%20Exhibit%2065.pdf> to CMU prisoners 
for their designation were incomplete, inaccurate, and sometimes even 
false <http://ccrjustice.org/files/SJ%20-%20Exhibit%2068.pdf>. In 
addition, some documents showed that political speech 
<http://ccrjustice.org/files/SJ%20-%20Exhibit%20150.pdf> was used as a 
factor in CMU designation. Discovery in the case also found that while 
prisoners were told they could earn their way out of a CMU by completing 
18 months with clear conduct 
there was in fact no avenue out of the CMU until years after it opened. 
Even now, prisoners who maintain clear conduct have their requests for 
transfer repeatedly denied without explanation.

Said *Kifah Jayyousi*, one of the plaintiffs in the case, “Today’s 
ruling proves that the years of abuse my family and I, along with many 
other Muslims, have suffered from the BOP was well worth the sacrifice. 
This decision finally restores our constitutional and human rights.”

The district court ruled that prisoners do not have a liberty interest 
in avoiding placement in a CMU because the units are less restrictive 
than conditions in administrative segregation, where prisoners are 
routinely placed for investigation, or pending transfer. However, CMU 
segregation lasts for years, while a typical stay in administrative 
segregation is only a few weeks. The average stay in a CMU, with its 
unique communications restrictions, is 55 times as long. Prisoners in 
CMU are subjected to severe restrictions on all forms of communication 
with the outside, world, including a prohibition on all contact visits, 
and are segregated from other prisoners.

Because the overwhelming majority of prisoners placed in CMUs are Muslim 
or are sent there because of their religious or political speech, 
attorneys say that placement in a CMU is uniquely stigmatizing in a way 
that administrative segregation is not. Sixty percent of CMU prisoners 
are Muslim, though Muslims comprise only six percent of the federal 
prisoner population.

While the court ruled against the First Amendment retaliation claims in 
this instance, it made the significant decision for future cases that 
plaintiffs would be entitled to damages if such claims were upheld.

For more information about CCR’s federal lawsuit challenging the CMUs, 
visit the /Aref, et al. v. Lynch, et al./ 
case page or www.ccrjustice.org/cmu <http://www.ccrjustice.org/cmu>. 
Read today’s ruling here 

The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP <http://www.weil.com/> and 
attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher of the Portland Law Collective are 
co-counsel in the case.

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