In 2006 and 2008, the Bureau of Prisons quietly created new restrictive units for terrorists or other inmates they feared might coordinate crimes from behind bars. The Communication Management Units (CMUs) were designed to more tightly monitor and restrict inmates’ communication with the outside world. The units, at Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois, operated largely in secret, without any formal policies or procedures in place — until last week.
On January 22, the Bureau of Prisons finalized rules that had been nearly five years in the making regarding who can be sent to the CMUs and how the facilities should operate. But prisoner advocates claim the new rules impose even stricter limits on contact without providing a legitimate way for inmates to appeal being placed under such restrictions.
“What this rule does is codify the harsh communication restrictions in place,” said Alexis Agathocleous, senior staff attorney at the Center for Constitutional Rights and lead counsel in a federal lawsuit over the units. “What [it] doesn’t do is correct numerous procedural violations. When you draw your designation criteria so broadly and you don’t have robust processes for prisoners to protest, you create a situation that’s ripe for abuse.”