Federal lawsuit challenges constitutionality of experimental prisons

[JURIST] The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) [advocacy website] filed suit [complaint, PDF; press release] on Tuesday challenging the strict visitation and communication restrictions [visiting regulations, PDF] at two experimental federal prison units called "Communications Management Units" (CMUs). The complaint alleges that the prisoners have suffered "severe and unjustifiable emotional distress" as a result of being deprived of fundamental constitutional rights. Prisoners at the CMUs are forbidden from hugging, touching, or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Transfers to the CMUs are not explained and cannot be appealed to a review board. CCR attorneys also claim that the CMUs have perpetuated a "pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation" because the vast majority of CMU prisoners are Muslim. CCR Attorney Alexis Agathocleous claims that the CMUs are an "experiment in social isolation" that has dispensed with due process and created a situation "ripe for abuse." On behalf of the prisoners, CCR is seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. If granted, the injunction would place the prisoners in the general population of a less restrictive facility.

The CMUs, located in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, were secretly opened during the George W. Bush administration. The facilities were created in response to criticism [WP report] that the prison bureau had failed to adequately monitor terrorist inmates' communications. The CMUs allow prison officials to closely monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and to isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world. Concerns about the restraints placed on inmate communication and the racial composition of the inmate population were voiced when the facilities were opened.



 

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