False Information Created by Bureau of Prisons Continues to Affect Released Prisoners, Must Be Expunged
Washington, D.C., May 10, 2019 – Today, two men formerly imprisoned in federal Communications Management Units (CMUs) asked a court to deny the government’s motion to dismiss their suit. CMUs are highly restrictive prison units that strictly monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and segregate them from other prisoners and the outside world. Sixty percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim, though Muslims comprise only six percent of the federal prisoner population. The two men who petitioned the court today, Yassin Aref and Kifah Jayyousi, were held in the CMUs for four and five years, respectively, despite having clean disciplinary histories. For the past decade, the men have been challenging their designation to the CMU on due process grounds, arguing that the procedures the Bureau of Prisons used to send them to the restrictive unit were nothing more than a sham and failed to protect against arbitrary, discriminatory, and retaliatory placements in the segregated prison unit.
Last month, the Bureau of Prisons moved to dismiss the former prisoners’ longstanding case as “moot,” arguing that because both men have been released from Bureau of Prisons’ custody, their due process challenge can no longer lead to any meaningful relief. Today the men opposed that motion, explaining that if the court were to find their rights were violated, it could order expungement of all information contained in their federal Bureau of Prisons files created through the CMU’s flawed designation and review procedures.
“For five years, I was denied physical contact and adequate communication with my family, including my young children, and kept in a segregated unit, separated from other prisoners,” said Kifah Jayyousi. “This isolation was based on erroneous information. Now that I am out of prison, I aim to rebuild my life and recover from those emotional wounds. Every day that false information persists in my file that process is impeded.”
Incorrect information about Aref and Jayyousi created through the flawed CMU procedures remains in their BOP files. This information was not corrected even when challenged by the prisoners and their lawyers. Though both men are no longer imprisoned in the CMUs, this information continues to affect them. Mr. Aref remains in immigration detention and suspects his CMU designation is the reason he is being held in the prison’s lockdown unit under restrictive conditions. Mr. Jayyousi remains under a 20-year term of supervised release, and modification of that term or its conditions will be determined in part based on the information contained in Mr. Jayyousi’s BOP file. Both men remain emotionally distressed over their arbitrary CMU placement. Attorneys further note that this erroneous information could be shared with law enforcement and affect them further in the future.
“It is too late for the court to order much of the relief Mr. Aref and Mr. Jayyousi sought when they originally filed this case while imprisoned in the CMUs,” said Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Staff Attorney Rachel Meeropol. “But that does not mean the court lacks the power to determine their rights were violated and order relief to ameliorate the lingering effects of that violation.”
Prisoners in CMUs are banned from any physical contact with friends and family, and their access to phone calls and work and educational opportunities are extremely limited. They are not given accurate information about why they have been designated to the CMU, nor how to challenge their designation. Documents uncovered in the case revealed that prisoners were routinely sent to the CMUs without meaningful explanation or other procedural protections, but rather in retaliation for their protected speech and religious practice in prison.
For more information, visit the Center for Constitutional Rights’ case page.
The law firm Weil Gotshal & Manges LLP and attorney Kenneth A. Kreuscher are co-counsel in the case.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.