Aref, et al. v. Barr, et al.

At a Glance

Date Filed: 

March 29, 2010

Current Status 

We are waiting for a decision from the D.C. District Court on whether CMU designation and review procedures violate due process.

Co-Counsel 

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, Kenneth A. Kreuscher Law LLC

Client(s) 

Yassin Aref, Kifah Jayyousi, Hedaya Jayyousi, Daniel McGowan, Jenny Synan, Avon Twitty

Case Description 

In 2006 and 2008, the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) secretively created two experimental “Communications Management Units” (CMUs) in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, designed to isolate certain prisoners from the rest of the prison population and the outside world. 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. CCR filed Aref v. Holder (now Aref v. Sessions), challenging policies and practices at the CMUs, in the U.S District Court for the District of Columbia, on April 1, 2010. The case is part of CCR’s broader efforts to challenge mass incarceration, discrimination, and abusive prison policies.

The plaintiffs in Aref are low- or medium-security prisoners who were designated to the CMU despite their clean or near-spotless disciplinary histories. Not a single one has been disciplined for any communications-related infraction within the last decade, nor for any significant disciplinary offense. Though the creation of the CMUs marked a dramatic change in BOP policy, they were opened without the required public notice and opportunity to comment.

Discovery materials in Aref reveal that incomplete and inadequate procedures have been used to designate and retain prisoners at the CMUs. These procedures have been marked by missing paper trails and political and religious discrimination, amounting to a truly Kafkaesque form of imprisonment. For example, prisoners are not told why they have been transferred to a CMU until after they arrive. Even then, the reasons they are provided are frequently vague, inaccurate, and/or completely false, and they are given erroneous – and even impossible – instructions for earning their way out of a CMU. Policies governing the CMUs are often unclear and interpreted differently by different BOP decision-makers. In addition, 60 percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim, though Muslims comprise only 6 percent of the federal prisoner population.

Since the CMUs were created, the designation and review process has denied prisoners due process at every step. CCR’s lawsuit asserts that designation to a CMU involves serious deprivations and restrictions, and these units must be brought into line with constitutional requirements.

Case Timeline

November 1, 2019
Judge denies motion to dismiss in part
November 1, 2019
Judge denies motion to dismiss in part
D.C. District Court judge agrees with the Center for Constitutional Rights that Kifah Jayyousi’s claims are not moot, because the false information about Mr. Jayyousi created through the BOP’s CMU review and designation procedures could still affect him, and, if those processes violate due process, expungement remains a meaningful remedy. Unfortunately, the judge rules that Yassin Aref’s claims are moot, as his removal from the United States means that the material in question is unlikely to impact him in the future.
May 31, 2019
Defendants file reply in support of their motion to dismiss
May 31, 2019
Defendants file reply in support of their motion to dismiss
May 10, 2019
Plaintiffs oppose motion to dismiss
May 10, 2019
Plaintiffs oppose motion to dismiss
Plaintiffs filed a brief opposing the BOP's motion to dismiss, explaining that their claims are not moot because the Court could still order meaningful injunctive relief if it finds the BOP violated Plaintiffs' procedural due process rights. Specifically, Plaintiffs seek expungement of CMU-related information from their prison files.
April 12, 2019
BOP moves to dismiss case as moot
April 12, 2019
BOP moves to dismiss case as moot
The Bureau of Prisons argues that Plaintiffs' procedural due process claims have been mooted by their release from BOP custody
August 19, 2016
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rules in CCR's favor
August 19, 2016
D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals rules in CCR's favor
The district court will now have to consider CCR’s evidence that prisoners sent to CMUs have been denied due process.
March 15, 2016
Oral argument in D.C. circuit
February 12, 2016
CCR files reply brief in Court of Appeals
February 12, 2016
CCR files reply brief in Court of Appeals
January 22, 2016
Government replies to CCR appeal
January 22, 2016
Government replies to CCR appeal
November 4, 2015

Amicus briefs filed in support of prisoners

November 4, 2015

Amicus briefs filed in support of prisoners

Seton Hall University School of Law, Center for Social Justice, the Legal Aid Society of the City of New York, the ACLU, and the ACLU of D.C. file two amicus briefs in support of CCR’s appeal.

October 28, 2015

CCR files appeal brief

October 28, 2015

CCR files appeal brief

CCR asks the court to reverse the district court’s grant of summary judgment to the government on our clients’ procedural due process and retaliation claims.  CCR also asks the court to reinstate Daniel McGowan and Kifah Jayyousi’s damage claims against Chief of the Counter-Terrorism Unit of the BOP Leslie Smith.

May 14, 2015

CCR files notice of appeal to D.C. Circuit Court

May 14, 2015

CCR files notice of appeal to D.C. Circuit Court

March 16, 2015

Court rules against prisoners, grants summary judgment

March 16, 2015

Court rules against prisoners, grants summary judgment

The court denies our procedural due process and retaliation claims, holding that CMUs do not impose an atypical and significant hardship on prisoners. The district court judge held that prisoners have no liberty interest in avoiding placement in CMUs, and thus did not consider our extensive record documenting arbitrary and discriminatory CMU placements and the lack of any meaningful review.

June 18, 2014

CCR opposes government's motion for summary judgment

May 21, 2014

Government files motion for summary judgment and opposition to CCR's motion for summary judgment