October 13, 2011, New York and Washington—This week, Members of the House of Representatives issued a Congressional Letter of Inquiry to the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) expressing their concerns with the Communications Management Units (CMUs), experimental federal prison units with overwhelmingly Muslim populations. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) released the following statement in response:
“We are pleased that Representative Scott and Members of the House of Representatives have issued this Letter of Inquiry to the Bureau of Prisons outlining their concerns regarding the extraordinary communications restrictions, the lack of due process, and the disproportionate number of Muslims in the CMUs.
The Center for Constitutional Rights and CAIR met with members of Congress to brief them on the issue, and we commend them for standing up for justice.
We look forward to seeing the BOP’s response to this inquiry, and we will continue to hold the BOP accountable as long as they isolate prisoners in experimental units.”
The Bureau of Prisons claims that the CMUs are designed to hold dangerous terrorists and other high-risk inmates; however, numerous prisoners are sent to the CMUs in retaliation for engaging in protected First Amendment activity, such as challenging poor treatment or other rights violations in the prison. Still others have clean disciplinary histories, and have been designated to the CMUs based on their religion. Individuals are designated to CMUs with no explanation and without a way to seek return to the general population—a due process violation that attorneys say allows for the abuse of power, retaliation and racial and religious profiling.
The Center for Constitutional Rights filed Aref v. Holder, a federal lawsuit challenging policies and practices at the CMUs in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia in March 2010 on behalf of several plaintiffs, including prisoners and their family members.
CCR and CAIR have partnered on advocacy and education around the country against the units for over a year, including joining with 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 to urge the BOP to close the CMUs following a period for public comment only held nearly four years after the BOP had already established the experimental prison units.
The BOP has given itself until October 2011 to take final action on the CMUs after the comments period. The Congressional letter of inquiry was submitted in light of the BOP’s review of this proposed rule.
CAIR is America's largest Muslim civil liberties and advocacy organization. Its mission is to enhance the understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding. Visit www.cair.com and follow @CAIRNational.
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.