For Immediate Release

Organization Profile: 

Jeanine Plant-Chirlin, 212-998-6289

Bureau of Prisons Proposed Rule Strictly Limits Prisoners’ Contact with the Outside World

Rule could stymie re-entry and make us less safe, Brennan Center and Corrections Experts Say

NEW YORK - Today the Brennan Center for Justice urged policymakers to
reevaluate a proposed federal rule that would severely limit prisoners'
ability to stay in touch with their families and communities. Other
progressive groups and corrections policy experts also pushed for the
rule change.

The proposed rule would empower the Federal Bureau of Prisons to
place certain prisoners in so-called "Communication Management Units" or
"CMUs." Once there, prisoners' communications would be restricted to
one letter per week, one telephone call and one visitor per month.
Without exception, the visits would occur through glass partitions,
preventing prisoners from hugging or kissing family members.

"These measures may seem like they're tough on crime, but they will
ultimately prove counterproductive," said David Shapiro, Brennan Center

The Brennan Center's comments asserted that "cutting off
communication between inmates and their families makes our streets and
our prisons less safe. Time and again, empirical research has shown that
inmates who maintain strong connections with their families are less
likely to make criminal activity a way of life."


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The Brennan Center also argued that the government "should avoid
overbroad restrictions on communications between inmates and family
members" and criticized the standards and procedures that can land a
prisoner in a Communication Management Unit. While the units were
designed primarily for prisoners thought to have connections to
terrorism or convicted of terrorism-related crimes, the proposed
criteria for placement in a CMU are so broad as to sweep up virtually
anyone. For example, the government could send a prisoner to a CMU when
there is "any" evidence of a "potential" threat to prison order caused
by a prisoner's communications - a very low threshold.

The Brennan Center asked the government to provide greater procedural
protections, including hearings and an opportunity to call witnesses,
before sending prisoners to CMUs. "The thin procedures contemplated by
the proposed rule will land inmates in CMUs whose presence there is
unjustified, and leave them with no meaningful way to challenge their
designation," the comments asserted.

For more information or to set up an interview, please contact
Jeanine Plant-Chirlin at 212-998-6289 or at


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The Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law is a non-partisan public policy and law institute that focuses on fundamental issues of democracy and justice. Our work ranges from voting rights to redistricting reform, from access to the courts to presidential power in the fight against terrorism.

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