Communications Management Units, or CMU’s, are units within prisons that have been called “Little Guantanamos” since half to two-thirds of the inmate population is Muslim or of Middle Eastern decent. The units also hold men with unpopular political beliefs such as environmentalists and animal rights activists.
The purpose of the two prisons in Terre Haute, Indiana and Marion, Illinois is to closely monitor inmates and restrict them from communicating with the outside world, which includes their attorneys, their families and the media. Inmates are allowed two 15-minute phone calls a week and two four-hour visitations behind plexiglass a month, all of which are live-monitored from Washington D.C. and must be scheduled in advance; that’s half the phone call time and one-fourth the visitation time given by most other prison inmates in the nation.
The prisons went against federal law when they secretly opened in 2006 and 2008 since they had not provided opportunity for public comment. In March 2010, the Center for Constitutional Rights filed a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the CMUs, stating that they violate due process and inflict cruel and unusual punishment. In April 2010, in response to the lawsuit, the Bureau of Prisons opened a two-month public comment period, which gave thousands of Americans the chance to comment on the prisons.
Since May 2009, four of the Holy Land Five were have spent time in Communications Management Units.