Thursday, June 03, 2010

Tell the Bureau of Prisons: Stop Isolating Prisoners in Experimental Units

Center for Constitutional Rights June 3, 2010


Join the Center for Constitutional Rights as we flood the Bureau of Prisons with public feedback around experimental prison units.

Noor Elashi, daughter of a man being held in isolation in a CMU (Communications Management Unit), speaks about the difficult and unfair circumstances of her father's treatment.


The Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) recently opened up a period for public comment around the establishment of two Communications Management Units (CMUs), prison units designed to isolate and segregate certain prisoners in the federal prison system from the rest of the BOP population.

Click here to read the comments that the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) sent to the BOP.

Individuals detained in the CMUs are mostly Muslim and are limited in their communications and contact to the outside world. This occurs without meaningful process or any disclosure of a legitimate reason for CMU designation, but rather in retaliation for their protected religious beliefs, unpopular political views, or lawful advocacy challenging rights violations in prison.

A large coalition including the CCR, concerned family members and friends, CMU prisoners, civil rights & liberties groups, legal providers, psychologists, former corrections officers, environmental advocacy organizations, criminal defense attorneys, and community and faith-based organizations are coming together to flood the BOP.

Tell the BOP: Stop Isolating Prisoners in Experimental Units

You can submit your comments online or through the mail, and you can submit anonymously.
Deadline: June 7, 2010

Online  comments imageSubmit your comment online:

Click here or visit: Select the "Submit Comment" button. You can upload a document or type in your comments.

Mail-in comments imageSubmit your comment through the mail:

If you submit comments via regular mail, please send them to the following address and include the following docket number in your correspondence:

Rules Unit, Office of General Counsel
Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW.
Washington, DC 20534

We encourage you to emphasize the issues that matter most to you. (Click here to download a template letter.) Here's a suggested list of ideas you can raise:

  • Lack of due process at the CMU: None of the CMU prisoners have been told why they were designated to the CMU, or what evidence was used to make that decision. They have received no hearing to challenge their CMU designation. Likewise, there is no meaningful review process to earn their way out of the CMU. This lack of transparency deprives prisoners of their due process rights.
  • Overrepresentation of Muslim and political prisoners at the CMU: Because there is no oversight procedure of who gets sent to the CMU and why, there has been an unchecked pattern of Muslim prisoners and politically active prisoners being sent to the CMU. Somewhere between 65 and 72% of prisoners at the CMU are Muslim. Others are, and have been, politically active. Their designation to the CMU is both discriminatory and retaliatory.
  • Destructive effect of the CMU on families: The meager number of phone calls and visits that CMU prisoners receive, and the blanket ban on physical contact with loved ones – including children – during visits tears families apart and inflicts pointless suffering of the prisoners and their families alike.
  • Conditions at the CMU amount to cruel and unusual punishment: The isolation experienced by CMU prisoners, and the ways in which they are prevented from maintaining their family ties, is cruel and serves no legitimate purpose.

Please consider sending us a copy of your comments* as we're collecting submissions to illustrate the depth of collective public outcry over the creation of the CMUs.

*Please send copies via email to: or via regular mail to: Nahal Zamani, Center for Constitutional Rights, 666 Broadway, 7th floor, New York, NY 10012.

A Selection of Submitted Comments

In response to the call for public comment, CCR, CMU prisoners, their family members and friends, civil rights and civil liberties groups, legal providers, psychologists, former corrections officers, environmental advocacy organizations, criminal defense attorneys, community and faith-based organizations and concerned individuals came together to urge the federal Bureau of Prisons to close the experimental prison units.

The following selection of submitted comments represents the breadth of opposition to the CMUs. A full collection of comments will be made available on the Bureau’s website at:

  • Comment Submitted by CCR: "CCR submits these comments to advise the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) of the discriminatory, arbitrary, and cruel way the CMUs currently function, and to urge the BOP to fundamentally rethink its plan to continue to segregate and isolate certain prisoners without proper procedural protections. CCR also urges the BOP to immediately cease restricting CMU prisoners' ability to meaningfully communicate with their family and friends without individualized security justifications that are both disclosed and properly reviewed."
  • Comments Submitted by Concerned Individuals: "The CMUs...deny children any meaningful relationship with their incarcerated parents. Improving prison conditions and communication for families of prisoners is necessary for the healthy development of children with incarcerated parents. I urge the BOP to abandon the CMUs altogether or to at least allow for regular and direct communication, contact and visitation with families and children of inmates."
  • Comments Submitted by the NYU Brennan Center and Former Corrections Officers: "Corrections officials can – and should – limit inmates’ communications as necessary to preserve order in prisons, to protect the safety of inmates and staff, and to block communications that could facilitate crime. Overly restrictive limitations, however, are counterproductive.... they make prisons more dangerous, increase recidivism, and harm inmates and their families."
  • Comments Submitted by the American Civil Liberties Union and Civil Rights Organizations: "The proposed regulation's severe restrictions on communications with the news media and with most family members are unprecedented and almost certainly unconstitutional. The ban on confidential communication with consular officials violates US treaty obligations. Moreover, these restrictions will be imposed by prison officials, with no outside review, applying criteria that are so vague as to provide no meaningful limits on official discretion."

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