March 10-24: Bureau of Prisons to Reopen Comment Period on Communication Management Units
The Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has reopened the public comment period for the Communication Management Units (CMU). You may remember that the original comment period of 2010 netted 700+ letters and emails against the restrictions outlined in the proposal. The Department of Justice ended the comment period and have sat on their hands since then in terms of getting actual legal approval to operate and maintain the CMUs. As a prisoner at Marion CMU during that time, our comrade Daniel McGowan tells us, “knowing that people outside of prison cared enough to put their concerns in writing on our behalf was heartening and re-energized my effort to close the CMUs.”
The BOP has opened public comment for just two weeks. Please check out the links below and send a clear message to them about these units and how they should be immediately closed.
Communication Management Units
This Proposed Rule document was issued by the Federal Prisons Bureau (BOP)
For related information, Open Docket Folder
Proposed rule; Notice to Reopen Comment Period.
In this document, the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) reopens the comment period of the proposed rule published on April 6, 2010 (75 FR 17324) which proposed to establish and describe Communication Management Units (CMUs) by regulation. We now reopen the comment period for fifteen (15) additional days in order to allow inmates and interested parties additional opportunity to comment.
Written comments must be postmarked and electronic comments must be submitted on or before March 25, 2014. Comments received by mail will be considered timely if they are postmarked on or before that date. The electronic Federal Docket Management System (FDMS) will accept comments until Midnight Eastern Time at the end of that day.
Written comments should be submitted to the Rules Unit, Office of General Counsel, Bureau of Prisons, 320 First Street NW., Washington, DC 20534. You may view an electronic version of this regulation at www.regulations.gov. You may also comment by using the www.regulations.gov comment form for this regulation. When submitting comments electronically you must include the BOP Docket Number in the subject box.
For Further Information Contact
Sarah Qureshi, Office of General Counsel, Bureau of Prisons, phone 202.307.2105.
Posting of Public Comments
Please note that all comments received are considered part of the public record and made available for public inspection online at www.regulations.gov. Such information includes personal identifying information (such as your name, address, etc.) voluntarily submitted by the commenter.
If you want to submit personal identifying information (such as your name, address, etc.) as part of your comment, but do not want it to be posted online, you must include the phrase “PERSONAL IDENTIFYING INFORMATION” in the first paragraph of your comment. You must also locate all the personal identifying information you do not want posted online in the first paragraph of your comment and identify what information you want redacted.
If you want to submit confidential business information as part of your comment but do not want it to be posted online, you must include the phrase “CONFIDENTIAL BUSINESS INFORMATION” in the first paragraph of your comment. You must also prominently identify confidential business information to be redacted within the comment. If a comment has so much confidential business information that it cannot be effectively redacted, all or part of that comment may not be posted on www.regulations.gov.
Personal identifying information identified and located as set forth above will be placed in the agency’s public docket file, but not posted online. Confidential business information identified and located as set forth above will not be placed in the public docket file. If you wish to inspect the agency’s public docket file in person by appointment, please see the FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT paragraph.
In this document, the Bureau of Prisons (Bureau) reopens the comment period of the proposed rule published on April 6, 2010 (75 FR 17324) (2010 proposed rule) which proposed to establish and describe Communication Management Units (CMUs) by regulation. We now reopen the comment period for fifteen (15) additional days in order to allow inmates and interested parties additional opportunity to comment. We do so in response to current ongoing litigation with which the Bureau has been involved. We reopen the comment period for 15 days instead of the typical 60-day length of a proposed rule comment period because the rule was previously open for a 60-day public comment period in 2010 and we received over 700 comments during that time. We now reopen the comment period for a limited time to allow further comments from interested parties while striving to expedite the regulation development process.
The 2010 proposed rule codifies and describes the Bureau’s procedures for designating inmates to, and limiting communication within, its Communication Management Units (CMU). Currently, the Bureau operates two CMUs, separately located at the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), Terre Haute, Indiana (established in December 2006), and the United States Penitentiary (USP), Marion, Illinois (established in March 2008). For further information, please see the proposed rule published on April 6, 2010 (75 FR 17324).
As a guide, take time to read over this letter written by members of congress to the BOP in 2011.
We are writing because we continue to have questions and concerns about the policies and practices at the Communications Management Units (CMUs), and the circumstances under which they were established. CMUs remove inmates from the general population without meaningful notice or explanation, impose severely restrictive limitations on inmate communication and contact (such as a permanent ban on contact visits), and preclude them from benefitting from the rehabilitative programming that is available to the general population.
As you are aware, the CMUs were established in 2006 and 2008 without public knowledge and hence without the opportunity for public comment, as required by law. Three years after their establishment, the Bureau of Prisons (BOP or “Bureau”) finally disclosed CMU policy for public comment. It is our understanding that the Bureau and the Department of Justice will be finalizing the proposed rule this fall. In light of this review process, we write to express our concern regarding the following issues and make the following inquiries:
Extraordinary Communications Restrictions
CMU prisoners receive a meager number of phone calls and visits, and are subjected to a blanket ban on physical contact with loved ones – including their children – during those visits. Despite the Bureau’s policy recognizing the critical importance of calls and visitation to rehabilitation and re-entry, the ban on physical contact remains in place at the CMUs. Such restrictions can tear families apart and inflict incredible suffering on prisoners and their families alike. Given what the research tells us about the importance of family and community to successful re-entry and rehabilitation, the isolation experienced by prisoners in situations such as the CMUs, and the ways in which they are prevented from maintaining their family ties, is counterproductive. If CMU prisoner inmate communication is being closely monitored, why are CMU prisoners not allowed to receive contact visits? This restriction concerns us because we fail to see the nexus between contact visits and the stated goal of the CMUs. Please explain how such restrictions further the goal of the CMUs.
In addition, what are the criteria for determining the number of visits and telephone calls that a CMU inmate can receive and are there individualized distinctions? The proposed rule sets forth a floor but not a ceiling. We are interested in knowing what, if not improper communications, informs these decisions.
Due Process Concerns
It has been brought to our attention that none of the CMU prisoners have received any meaningful explanation of why they were designated to the CMUs. It is our understanding that while inmates are informed generally about the transfer, there is no specificity as to why they are being moved or what information was used to make the determination to place them in a CMU.
Similarly, they are not informed of the evidence that was used to make the decision to place them there. We understand that there is no opportunity to have a hearing to challenge their CMU designation. Likewise, there is no review process through which they might earn their way out of the CMU. This lack of transparency raises questions about the due process rights of the prisoners so designated. We feel that the designation of prisoners into CMUs should entail adequate protections and processes for review and appeal. Please advise us as to what protections the BOP plans to incorporate into the CMU designation process. We believe the Bureau should require proper process, including notice and an opportunity to be heard, supporting documentation setting forth the evidence with specificity, and a review process. We note that these types of procedures are already in place for other transfers that similarly affect prisoners’ conditions of confinement and inquire why they cannot be set in place for CMU transfers as well.
Disproportionate Number of Muslims in CMUs
We have been informed that somewhere between 65 and 72% of prisoners at the CMUs are Muslim, an alarming overrepresentation of Muslim prisoners in CMUs, since Muslims comprise only 6% of the total federal prison population. Given the lack of transparency discussed above, this over-representation of Muslim inmates is even more troubling. What accounts for the large percentage of Muslims in the CMUs? It is our understanding that numerous prisoners in the CMUs who are Muslim have been so designated with only minor disciplinary infractions, and no communications-related infractions. Please explain why that is the case.
Moreover, why did the BOP determine that it is not necessary for inmates to have communications-related infractions before being placed in a CMU, given the focus on the monitoring of inmate communication?