IN: FACILITY HOLDING TERRORISM INMATES LIMITS COMMUNICATION
The Justice Department has quietly opened a new prison unit in Indiana that houses a hodgepodge of second-tier terrorism inmates, most of them Arab Muslims, whose ability to communicate with the outside world has been tightly restricted.
At the Communications Management Unit, or CMU, in Terre Haute, Ind., all telephone calls and mail are monitored, the number of phone calls limited and visits are restricted to a total of four hours per month, according to special rules enforced by the Justice Department’s U.S. Bureau of Prisons. All inmate conversations must be conducted in English unless otherwise negotiated.
The unit appears to be a less restrictive version of the “supermax” facility in Florence, Colo., which holds some of the United States’ most notorious terrorists, including al-Qaeda operative Zacarias Moussaoui and Unabomber Theodore J. Kaczynski.
The Indiana unit, by contrast, is part of a medium-security facility and includes inmates set to be released in as little as two years. Prisons spokeswoman Traci Billingsley said the unit’s population will not be limited to inmates convicted of terrorism-related cases, though all of the prisoners fit that definition.
Prison officials said they already seek to fully monitor the mail and other communications of all 213 “terrorist inmates” in the system. “By concentrating resources in this fashion, it will greatly enhance the agency’s capabilities for language translation, content analysis and intelligence sharing,” the bureau said in a summary of the CMU.
The unit, in Terre Haute’s former death row, has received 17 inmates since it was launched in December and eventually will hold five times that number, officials said.
Defense lawyers and prisoner advocates complain that the unit’s communication restrictions are unduly harsh for inmates not considered high security risks. They also say that the ethnic makeup of the CMU’s population may indicate racial profiling. “If they really believed these people are serious terrorists, they wouldn’t be in this unit,” said David Fathi, staff counsel for the National Prison Project at the American Civil Liberties Union. “They’d be in Colorado with [Atlanta Olympics bomber] Eric Rudolph and the Unabomber and the rest of the people that the Bureau of Prisons thinks are serious threats.”