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Federal Prisoners Sue over Outside Contact Ban

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By Kamika Dunlap on March 31, 2010 1:45 PM

The Center for Constitutional Rights is representing several federal prisoners who are suing over restrictions on outside contact. They are suing their jailers for violating their rights to communicate with their families.

The inmates housed at several federal prisons around the country claim restrictions on seeing their families violate their right to free association and constitute cruel and unusual punishment, according to Reuters.

Many of the 60-70 federal prisoners involved in the lawsuit are Muslim. Some have been convicted of convicted of terrorism-related crimes, according to their lawyers.

The federal prisoners are being held in Communications Management Units, a highly restrictive prison program.

In addition, their lawsuit says the inmates are not treated like other federal prisoners who are afforded communication rights to contact their family members frequently.

The 77-page lawsuit calls for the inmates to be sent back to regular prisons or be given adequate justification for detention in Communications Management units.

Critics say Communications Management Units discriminate against Muslims. One critic has even called the units, "a stateside Guantanamo."

Inside these units, federal prisoners are allowed eight hours of visiting time per month. CMU prisoners are may not have any physical contact with family members and are forbidden from hugging, touching or embracing their children or spouses during visits.

The CMUs were opened under the Bush administration in 2006 and 2007 respectively and were designed to monitor and control the communications of certain prisoners.

There are Communications Management Units in Terre Haute, Ind., and Marion, Ill. and lawyers for the inmates say the units violate federal law and the Constitution.

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