For Immediate Release
New Bureau of Prisons Rule Discloses Policies and Conditions in Experimental Segregation Units
Units Continue to Target Muslims, Activists, Restrict Communication and Forbid Physical Contact with Family Without Due Process
Units," or "CMUs," the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) took one step
toward correcting its illegal and discriminatory segregation of Muslims
and political prisoners by opening its actions to public scrutiny. The Center
for Constitutional Rights (CCR) challenged the CMUs for
violations of fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to
due process, in a lawsuit filed last week.
The lawsuit, which is called Aref v. Holder, raises a number of
substantial constitutional claims and also states that the units were
created in violation of federal law, because the public was not given
the requisite opportunity to learn about the CMUs and comment on the
soundness of the proposed policy. Attorneys say the BOP's late attempt
to correct that omission by proposing a rule disclosing CMU policy is an
implicit acknowledgment that the units are unparalleled in the federal
prison system, and an admission that the BOP violated the law by
operating the unique units secretly for more than three years.
"While we welcome the BOP's decision to finally comply with its legal
obligations-albeit over three years too late-the proposed rule does not
make these experimental isolation units constitutional," said CCR
staff attorney Alexis Agathocleous. "Our clients' experiences
clearly demonstrate the abusive and arbitrary nature of the CMUs." For
example, the proposed rule states that CMU prisoners, when possible, are
provided a detailed explanation of the information that has led to
their designation. In reality, many prisoners have simply been told
that their designation was based on "reliable evidence." Their requests
to be told the nature of this evidence are denied. Others received an
explanation for their designation that included factually incorrect
information, with no opportunity for correction.
The men detained in the CMUs have heavily restricted telephone and
visitation access, and are categorically 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. The units are also being used overwhelmingly to hold Muslim
prisoners and prisoners with unpopular political beliefs.
Family members of some CMU prisoners expressed surprise that the
proposed rule did not acknowledge the blanket ban on contact visitation
that has been in effect at both CMU units since their inception. "I
haven't been able to hug my husband, or even hold his hand, for two
years," said Jenny Synan, the spouse of a CMU prisoner and a
plaintiff in the lawsuit. "This proposed rule does not explain
how prohibiting a husband from holding his wife's hand or keeping a
father from hugging his daughter, is necessary for prison security."
For more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR's
legal case page or http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/aref,-et-al.-v.-holder,-et-....
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.