Solitary Confinement: A “Social Death” – NYT on “Shocking” Data from CCR Case

Prisoner Human Rights Movement

A video the New York Times published, accompanying the article Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life (August 3rd, 2015, by Erica Goode) shows Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd talking on camera about solitary confinement, being locked down without any hope, with no ending in sight:

http://graphics8.nytimes.com/bcvideo/1.0/iframe/embed.html?videoId=100000003831139&playerType=embed


This comes from the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR), and it is about the Case Ashker v. Brown, in which the New York Times used research, including the 10 expert reports and a video with 4 of the class action representatives (Todd Ashker, George Franco, Gabriel Reyes and Paul Redd).

Today’s New York Times science section features a front-page piece about the research that CCR commissioned and compiled for our ground-breaking challenge to long-term solitary confinement. “Solitary Confinement: Punished for Life” introduces to the public the 10 expert reports we submitted to the court…

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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.

Segregated Federal Units Target Muslims, Activists

CCR Challenges Experimental Prison Units that Restrict Communication and Forbid Physical Contact with Family Without Due Process

Segregated Federal Units Target Muslims, Activists

http://ccrjustice.org/newsroom/press-releases/ccr-challenges-experimental-prison-units-restrict-communication-and-forbid-p

CONTACT: press@ccrjustice.org

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.

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.

See also the article on SolitaryWatch about this lawsuit.