Stand in Solidarity with Marion-CMU Prison Hunger Strikers

As found on Facebook:

Stand in Solidarity with Marion-CMU Prison Hunger Strikers
by JusticeFor Shifa on Saturday, June 2, 2012 at 2:27am ·

SOLIDARITY WITH MARION-CMU PRISON HUNGER STRIKERS

In April 2012, Shifa and a group of Muslim American political prisoners in the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at Marion, IL were on hunger strike. Since September 2011 the new Warden and her staff have been horribly abusing and violating Muslim inmates increasingly– harassing during individual and congregational prayer times, revoking religiously prescribed meal, banning spiritual educational programs, torturing with lights turned on in the cells 24/7, and terminating communication with the outside world– and denying their constitutionally granted human rights. Seeing the atrocious, inhumane mistreatment of Muslim prisoners, the non-Muslim inmates also went on hunger strike in solidarity. The Warden tried to silence Muslim prisoners by punishing them in solitary confinement and barring their communication.

Although Shifa has been removed from Marion-CMU to Terre Haute, Indiana, Justice for Shifa Support Committee stands in solidarity with the Muslim political prisoners who have been on hunger strike in the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at Marion, IL. Faith-based segregated imprisonment and isolation at the CMU-Marion egregiously targets, discriminates, silences and abuses a minority religious group collectively. At its core it also represses a group for practicing their faith and demanding their constitutionally granted rights to religious freedom.

We see clear lines connecting the CMU-Marion struggle to the California hunger striker’s struggle– demanding their constitutional and human rights– and preceding decades of prisoner-led demands to their rights throughout the prison system.

The demands of Muslim prisoners include: religiously prescribed meal, individual and congregational prayers, religious and spiritual classes and educational programs, and contacts with family and friends.

The CMU-Marion political prisoners’ demands resonate strongly with what Justice for Shifa Support Committee believes are part of our human rights to freedom of religion and granting these rights to prisoners is a way to make our communities free of religious bigotry and racial oppression.

We believe the US Government established these two ‘secret’ units, CMUs in Illinois and Indiana, inside the Federal Prison System to harass and prevent Muslim prisoners from practicing their faith. We believe the US is engaged in violent ‘missionizing projects’ using the CMUs and the prison system to coercively assimilate Muslims to abandon their faith and spiritual life– by targeting and banning their basic spiritual and religious practices– in violation of the US Constitution and the Universal Decleration of Human Rights.

We encourage people everywhere to stand in solidarity with the CMU-Marion political prisoner hunger strikers and forge connections across the prison walls meant to disappear so many of our loved ones, friends and neighbors.

Justice for Shifa Support Committee demands an investigation into the incidences at CMU-Marion, removal of the abusive Warden, and a stop to all missionizing tactics of the government under the guise of fighting the War on Terror.
…..

Stand in Solidarity with CMU-Marion Political Prisoners and Send the Following Letter to the Warden and the Following Officials.

Date

Wendy J. Roel, Warden
4500 Prison Rd
Marion, IL 62959

Dear Warden Roel,

I am writing to express my deep concern over the pattern of harassment and mistreatment of Muslim inmates while in your custody in the Communication Management Unit (CMU) at USP-Marion.

It appears that your administration has recently placed many Muslims in solitary confinement without explanation. In addition, their right to freely practice the Muslim faith has been severely impaired on multiple occasions, forcing them to go on a hunger strike. Numerous CMU inmates from your facility have been complaining about illegal activities that your administration and staff are engaging in to deny Muslim religious and spiritual services under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act (RLUIPA) and BOP regulations as well as the First Amendment.

According to reports, these abuses have worsened since your administration began in September 2011. The reports allege either you personally or your staff are engaging in the following pattern of misconduct and illegal behavior:

1) Walking in on Muslims in the Chapel during Friday religious services and interrupting service while the Muslim preacher delivers the sermon.

2) Cancelling several religious and spiritual classes that were approved by the Bureau of Prison staff and taught for several months before your arrival.

3) Refusing to provide religiously prescribed Muslim meals, Halal meals and food items which were approved by the Chaplain and Trust Fund Supervisor at the BOP.

4) Barring Muslim inmates from observing religious practices and holidays

5) Causing health problems by keeping lights on in the cells 24/7

6) Harassing Muslim inmates during their individual and congregational prayers

7) Denying Muslims morning prayer

8) Banning congregational Muslim prayer

9) Stopping all educational and rehabilitative programs for Muslims

10) Prohibiting communication with the outside world

The Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 (RLUIPA) protects the religious rights of federal inmates. It appears that your facility has been involved in serious discrimination against Muslim inmates. I request that the following actions be taken immediately:

Provide information on protocol and procedures regarding maintenance of prisoner safety, adherence to prisoner requests regarding communication with family members;

Provide information about measures that have been taken to ensure CMU Muslim inmates are able to observe and practice their faith freely;

Ensure that Muslim inmates constitutionally protected right to freely practice their religion is not being violated while they are in your facility;

Provide all Muslim inmates with a formal written apology

Ensure Muslim inmates will not be retaliated against as a result of this complaint;

Compensate all Muslim inmates for the emotional distress they may have suffered as a result of the extreme illegal discrimination;

Provide information about the type of cultural and religious sensitivity training is conducted for corrections personnel;

I look forward to a positive and swift resolution to this matter. Issues of such severe violations of civil and religious rights are of grave concern to me as an American citizen. I will continue to monitor this situation very closely and take any appropriate action that it deems necessary, including seeking further public attention for this case.

I appreciate you taking prompt action to remedy these serious issues inside CMU-Marion.

Sincerely, [your name]

Cc:

Thomas E. Perez

Assistant Attorney General
U.S. Department of Justice
Civil Rights Division
950 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.

Office of the Assistant Attorney General
Washington, DC 20530

Michael E. Horowitz
Inspector General
US Department of Justice
950 Pennsylvania Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20530

Director Charles E. Samuels, Jr.
U.S. Department of Justice
Federal Bureau of Prisons
320 First Street, NW
Washington, DC 20534

Patrick Leahy
United States Senate
Committee on the Judiciary
224 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Manfred Nowak
Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)
Palais Wilson
52 Rue Des Paquis
CH – 201 Geneva, Switzerland

Congressman John Conyers
United States House of Representative
2426 Rayburn H.O.B
Washington, DC 20515

Attorney Alan Mills
Uptown People’s Law Center
4413 N. Sheridan
Chicago, IL 60640

Beyond Guantánamo, a Web of Prisons for Terrorism Inmates

From: New York Times
December 10, 2011

WASHINGTON — It is the other Guantánamo, an archipelago of federal prisons that stretches across the country, hidden away on back roads. Today, it houses far more men convicted in terrorism cases than the shrunken population of the prison in Cuba that has generated so much debate.

An aggressive prosecution strategy, aimed at prevention as much as punishment, has sent away scores of people. They serve long sentences, often in restrictive, Muslim-majority units, under intensive monitoring by prison officers. Their world is spare.

Among them is Ismail Royer, serving 20 years for helping friends go to an extremist training camp in Pakistan. In a letter from the highest-security prison in the United States, Mr. Royer describes his remarkable neighbors at twice-a-week outdoor exercise sessions, each prisoner alone in his own wire cage under the Colorado sky. “That’s really the only interaction I have with other inmates,” he wrote from the federal Supermax, 100 miles south of Denver.

There is Richard Reid, the shoe bomber, Mr. Royer wrote. Terry Nichols, who conspired to blow up the Oklahoma City federal building. Ahmed Ressam, the would-be “millennium bomber,” who plotted to attack Los Angeles International Airport. And Eric Rudolph, who bombed abortion clinics and the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta.

In recent weeks, Congress has reignited an old debate, with some arguing that only military justice is appropriate for terrorist suspects. But military tribunals have proved excruciatingly slow and imprisonment at Guantánamo hugely costly — $800,000 per inmate a year, compared with $25,000 in federal prison.

The criminal justice system, meanwhile, has absorbed the surge of terrorism cases since 2001 without calamity, and without the international criticism that Guantánamo has attracted for holding prisoners without trial. A decade after the Sept. 11 attacks, an examination of how the prisons have handled the challenge of extremist violence reveals some striking facts:

¶ Big numbers. Today, 171 prisoners remain at Guantánamo. As of Oct. 1, the federal Bureau of Prisons reported that it was holding 362 people convicted in terrorism-related cases, 269 with what the bureau calls a connection to international terrorism — up from just 50 in 2000. An additional 93 inmates have a connection to domestic terrorism.

¶ Lengthy sentences. Terrorists who plotted to massacre Americans are likely to die in prison. Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square in 2010, is serving a sentence of life without parole at the Supermax, as are Zacarias Moussaoui, a Qaeda operative arrested in 2001, and Mr. Reid, the shoe bomber, among others. But many inmates whose conduct fell far short of outright terrorism are serving sentences of a decade or more, the result of a calculated prevention strategy to sideline radicals well before they could initiate deadly plots.

¶ Special units. Since 2006, the Bureau of Prisons has moved many of those convicted in terrorism cases to two special units that severely restrict visits and phone calls. But in creating what are Muslim-dominated units, prison officials have inadvertently fostered a sense of solidarity and defiance, and set off a long-running legal dispute over limits on group prayer. Officials have warned in court filings about the danger of radicalization, but the Bureau of Prisons has nothing comparable to the deradicalization programs instituted in many countries.

¶ Quiet releases. More than 300 prisoners have completed their sentences and been freed since 2001. Their convictions involved not outright violence but “material support” for a terrorist group; financial or document fraud; weapons violations; and a range of other crimes. About half are foreign citizens and were deported; the Americans have blended into communities around the country, refusing news media interviews and avoiding attention.

Read the rest here.

Guantánamo in America (Part One): NPR Explains How Muslims Are Deprived of Fundamental Rights in Secretive Prison Units

From: Andy Worthington´s Guantanamo Bay Webarchive:

20 March 2011

It has long been a regret of mine that I don’t have enough time to write about the domestic prison system in the US, because of the distressing scale of incarceration in the US (the highest per capita rate in the world, by far) and also because of the violence and brutality, and the use of prolonged isolation, that mirrors much of what has been taking place at Guantánamo and elsewhere in the “War on Terror” for the last nine years.

Fortunately, two weeks ago NPR ran a major feature on a disturbing aspect of the isolation regime in domestic US prisons, focusing on the little-known Communications Management Units (CMUs), located in Terre Haute, Indiana, and Marion, Illinois, where the inmates are mostly Muslims, who are subjected to surveillance 24 hours a day, have their mail monitored, and are prevented from having any physical contact whatsoever with their families during prison visits –behavior that is more reminiscent of Guantánamo than of the rest of the domestic prison system.

Although Muslims make up the majority of the prisoners in the CMUs, there appears to be little internal logic regarding who is held and why, as those held range from foreign nationals involved in major acts of international terrorism to American citizens involved in fundraising for organzations acting as alleged fronts for terrorism and others caught in US government sting operations, which rather tends to enforce the notion that a large part of the CMUs’ rationale involves racial and religious profiling.

The prisoners also include — or have included — individuals involved in various forms of political activism, including environmental activism, and others for whom the rationale for keeping them under 24-hour surveillance appears to be that they “have spoken out at other prison units and advocated for their rights” and/or “have taken leadership positions in religious communities in those other prisons,” and/or because “officials worry that they could recruit other inmates for terrorism or direct people in the outside world to commit crimes.”

If you didn’t come across the NPR feature, I’ve cross-posted below the main article, “Guantánamo North”: Inside Secretive U.S. Prisons, but I also recommend a shorter follow-up article, Leaving “Guantanamo North”, and two other parts of the NPR feature that are not reproduced here: TIMELINE: The History Of ‘Guantanamo North’ and, in particular, DATA & GRAPHICS: Population Inside The CMUs, which contains the names and details of the 86 prisoners (and ex-prisoners) identified in the NPR report.

“Guantánamo North”: Inside Secretive U.S. Prisons
By Carrie Johnson and Margot Williams, NPR, March 3, 2011

Reports about what life is like inside the military prison for terrorism suspects at Guantánamo Bay are not uncommon. But very little is reported about two secretive units for convicted terrorists and other inmates who get 24-hour surveillance, right here in the U.S.

Read the rest here….

Buried in the Bureau of Prisons

David C. Fathi 

Director, ACLU National Prison Project

Posted: June 4, 2010 04:31 PM 

Imagine a country in which prisoners can be denied visits, and even telephone calls, with family members for years at a time. Imagine a country in which government officials can prevent prisoners from telling news reporters about mistreatment or abuse. Imagine a country in which prisoners who are foreign citizens can be denied their right, guaranteed by international treaty, to meet with consular officials from their nation of origin. Unfortunately, that country is not some totalitarian state in the 1950s, but the United States in 2010.
Since 2006, the federal Bureau of Prisons has quietly operated a “Communications Management Unit” (CMU) at the federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana. A second CMU was opened in Marion, Illinois, in 2008. Prisoners in these units face strict limits on visiting and telephone contact with the outside world.

The government has so far been operating these units without regulatory authority, but in April of this year, it belatedly published proposed rules that would authorize their operation. These rules make clear just what the government has in mind: a regime even more draconian than currently exists in the CMUs. Prisoners would be allowed only one 15-minute telephone call per month, with “immediate family members only” (defined to include only parents, spouses, children and siblings); one one-hour noncontact visit per month, with immediate family members; and one letter per week, limited to three pieces of paper, to and from a single recipient, “at the discretion of the Warden.”

When the CMUs were first established, the government justified them as necessary to monitor the communications of convicted or suspected terrorists. But in a classic case of mission creep, the new regulations provide that a prisoner can be transferred to a CMU if there is “any … evidence of a potential threat to the safe, secure, and orderly operation of prison facilities, or protection of the public, as a result of the inmate’s communication with persons in the community.” Given that most people in BOP custody are already accused or convicted of criminal activity, this standard imposes no meaningful limits; virtually any of the more than 200,000 federal prisoners could be sent to a CMU. In fact the CMUs have already been used to house prisoners who have not been convicted, or even accused, of terrorist activity. And because the CMU transfer decision is made solely by the Bureau of Prisons, with no external review or oversight, prisoners lack a meaningful way to challenge their placement.


These proposed rules represent an unprecedented attack on First Amendment rights, both of prisoners and of those on the outside — family, friends, journalists, clergy, and others — who want to communicate with them. A CMU prisoner who was raised by his aunt or grandmother will not be allowed to receive visits from her, or even talk to her by telephone. A reporter who wants to interview a prisoner alleging mistreatment or abuse won’t be allowed to do so. Never in modern U.S. history have prison officials been given the power to create a class of prisoners who are denied virtually all communication with the outside world.
The proposed rules also violate U.S. treaty obligations. Under the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations (PDF), ratified by the United States in 1969, consular officers have the right to visit their nationals who are in prison or detention in a foreign country, for the purpose of arranging legal representation or providing other assistance. Although more than one-quarter of the bureau’s prisoners are foreign nationals, the proposed rules make no provision for the consular visits required by the treaty. Past U.S. violations of the Vienna Convention have resulted in judgments against the United States by the International Court of Justice; the proposed rules make it all but certain that more treaty violations will occur in the future.

The government predictably defends the CMUs as necessary for security. But prison officials already have the authority to control and limit prisoners’ correspondence, telephone calls, and visits, and to monitor those communications to detect and prevent criminal activity. For example, prison staff must approve a prisoner’s visitor lists; they may conduct background checks for that purpose, and may disapprove any visitor. Visiting areas may be monitored. Prison officials may deny placement of a given telephone number on a prisoner’s telephone list if they determine that there is a threat to security. Telephone calls are also monitored. Prison officials have the authority to open and read all non-legal prisoner mail. The proposed CMU rules don’t explain why these existing security measures are insufficient. And they certainly don’t explain how security is meaningfully advanced by preventing a prisoner from calling his grandmother.

The Bureau of Prisons is accepting public comments on the proposed rules through June 7. On Tuesday, the ACLU submitted comments calling for the immediate closure of CMUs. See the instructions for filing comments, and submit your own here.

ACT NOW: FBOP trying to expand use of CMUs

News via our comrade, Vikki Law. There is action to take here:

———————-

The BOP is proposing further isolating people in Communications Management Units. There’s a period for public comment that ends June 7th.

Conveniently for the BOP, the comment form is undergoing some maintenance this weekend and won’t be back up until Monday, 5/31, at 11:59 pm. But that still leaves a week to leave a comment on the proposed rules.

If you can’t wait till Tuesday morning, you can also snail mail your outrage to the BOP:

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

Include the following docket number in your correspondence:

BOP DOCKET #1148-P COMMUNICATION MANAGEMENT UNITS

Lawsuit filed against Communications Management Units

Posted on April 1, 2010 by Denverabc

March 30, 2010, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) filed a lawsuit challenging violations of fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to due process, at two experimental federal prison units called “Communications Management Units” (CMUs). The units are being used overwhelmingly to hold Muslim prisoners and prisoners with unpopular political beliefs.

CCR filed Aref v. Holder in the D.C. District Court on behalf of five current and former prisoners of the units in Terre Haute, IN and Marion, IL; two other plaintiffs are the spouses of prisoners. The CMUs were secretly opened under the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007 respectively and were designed to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners and to isolate them from other prisoners and the outside world.

Transfers to the CMU are not explained; nor are prisoners told how release into less restrictive confinement may be earned as there is no review process. Lawyers say that because these transfers are not based on facts or discipline for infractions, a pattern of religious and political discrimination and retaliation for prisoners’ lawful advocacy has emerged. The five plaintiffs in Aref were designated to the two CMUs despite having relatively or totally clean disciplinary histories, and none of the plaintiffs have received any communications-related disciplinary infractions in the last decade. Several of the plaintiffs expect to serve the entire remaining duration of their sentences at the CMU.

“These units are an experiment in social isolation,” said CCR Attorney Alexis Agathocleous. “People are being put in these extraordinarily restrictive units without being told why and without any meaningful review. Dispensing with due process creates a situation ripe for abuse; in this case, it has allowed for a pattern of religious profiling, retaliation and arbitrary punishment. This is precisely what the rule of law and the Constitution forbid.”

In addition to heavily restricted telephone and visitation access, CMU prisoners are categorically denied any physical contact with family members and are forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on contact visitation, which is unique in the federal prison system, not only causes suffering to the families of the incarcerated men, but is a violation of fundamental constitutional rights.

Said the 14-year-old daughter of one of the prisoners in the lawsuit, “The thing that hurts the most is that I can hear him but I can never touch him. I haven’t hugged, kissed or held my dad since December of 2007.”

Between 65 and 72 percent of CMU prisoners are Muslim men, a fact that attorneys say demonstrates that the CMUs were created to allow for the segregation and restrictive treatment of Muslims based on the discriminatory belief that such prisoners are more likely than others to pose a threat to prison security.

Others prisoners appear to be transferred to the CMU because of other protected First Amendment activity, such as speaking out on social justice issues or filing grievances in prison or court regarding conditions and abuse.

For more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR’s legal case page or http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/aref%2C-et-al.-v.-holder%2C-et-al. (FPW: link does not work)

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.

Visit www.ccrjustice.org.

CCR: Units Continue to Target Muslims, Activists, Restrict Communication and Forbid Physical Contact with Family Without Due Process

New Bureau of Prisons Rule Discloses Policies and Conditions in Experimental Segregation Units

Source: CCR

Units Continue to Target Muslims, Activists, Restrict Communication and Forbid Physical Contact with Family Without Due Process

April 6, 2010, Washington, D.C.— Over three years after opening secretive “Communications Management Units,” or “CMUs,” the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) took one step toward correcting its illegal and discriminatory segregation of Muslims and political prisoners by opening its actions to public scrutiny. The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) challenged the CMUs for violations of fundamental constitutional rights, including the right to due process, in a lawsuit filed last week.

The lawsuit, which is called Aref v. Holder, raises a number of substantial constitutional claims and also states that the units were created in violation of federal law, because the public was not given the requisite opportunity to learn about the CMUs and comment on the soundness of the proposed policy. Attorneys say the BOP’s late attempt to correct that omission by proposing a rule disclosing CMU policy is an implicit acknowledgment that the units are unparalleled in the federal prison system, and an admission that the BOP violated the law by operating the unique units secretly for more than three years.

“While we welcome the BOP’s decision to finally comply with its legal obligations—albeit over three years too late—the proposed rule does not make these experimental isolation units constitutional,” said CCR staff attorney Alexis Agathocleous. “Our clients’ experiences clearly demonstrate the abusive and arbitrary nature of the CMUs.” For example, the proposed rule states that CMU prisoners, when possible, are provided a detailed explanation of the information that has led to their designation. In reality, many prisoners have simply been told that their designation was based on “reliable evidence.” Their requests to be told the nature of this evidence are denied. Others received an explanation for their designation that included factually incorrect information, with no opportunity for correction.

The men detained in the CMUs have heavily restricted telephone and visitation access, and are categorically forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits. Attorneys say this blanket ban on contact visitation, which is unique in the federal prison system, not only causes suffering to the families of the incarcerated men, but is a violation of fundamental constitutional rights. The units are also being used overwhelmingly to hold Muslim prisoners and prisoners with unpopular political beliefs.

Family members of some CMU prisoners expressed surprise that the proposed rule did not acknowledge the blanket ban on contact visitation that has been in effect at both CMU units since their inception. “I haven’t been able to hug my husband, or even hold his hand, for two years,” said Jenny Synan, the spouse of a CMU prisoner and a plaintiff in the lawsuit. “This proposed rule does not explain how prohibiting a husband from holding his wife’s hand or keeping a father from hugging his daughter, is necessary for prison security.”

For more information on Aref v. Holder, visit CCR’s legal case page or http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/aref,-et-al.-v.-holder,-et-….

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.