Environmental activist Daniel McGowan was taken back to prison on Thursday after he wrote a Huffington Post op-ed post while in a halfway house asserting that his fellow inmates were imprisoned for their religious or political beliefs, according to the Huffington Post.
McGowan wrote in an April 1 blog post that he was confined to an “experimental” segregated unit called the a “Communication Management Unit” (CMU), which he said was established during the Bush administration, before he was serving out his sentence at a halfway house in Brooklyn.
“The units are designed to isolate prisoners from the rest of the prisoner population, and more importantly, from the rest of the world. They impose strict limitations on your phone calls home and visits from family and friends — you have far less access to calls and visits than in general population,” McGowan wrote. “All interactions where conducted over a telephone, with Plexiglas and bars between us. Until they were threatened with legal action, CMU prisoners were only allowed one single 15-minute phone call per week.”
“What’s also notable about the CMUs is who is sent there. It became quickly obvious to me that many CMU prisoners were there because of their religion or in retaliation for their speech,” McGowan continued. “By my count, around two-thirds of the men are Muslim, many of whom have been caught up in the so-called ‘war on terror,’ others who just spoke out for their rights or allegedly took leadership positions in the Muslim community at other facilities. Some, like me, were prisoners who have political views and perspectives that are not shared by the Department of Justice.”
After publishing his op-ed, McGowan was then sent back to a high-security prison facility Thursday morning. His wife, Jenny Synan, told the Huffington Post, “If this is indeed a case of retaliation for writing an article about the BOP retaliating against his free speech while he was in prison, it is more than ironic, it is an outrage.”
McGowan’s case is now under review by the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to see if the actions of the federal officers were inappropriate. He is expected return to the halfway house on Friday.
McGowan was arrested in 2005 as a result of the FBI’s “Operation Backfire” with five others who they said were involved in the 1997 firebombing of a horsemeat packing plant in Redmond, Oregon. The members of the group were charged with a variety of crimes, including arson and domestic terrorism. The radical animal rights group Animal Liberation front took credit for the attack, but insisted those arrested were innocent.
At the time of the arrests, ALF Press Office spokesperson Jerry Vlasak told The Christian Science Monitor, “What law enforcement has done is round up a bunch of above-ground, well-known, peaceful animal-rights activists and environmental activists and charged them with being members of the ALF and the ELF [Earth Liberation Front] simply because they can’t find the real member. “These people are completely innocent of the charges.”
UPDATE: The Center For Constitutional Rights, which is representing McGowan in a larger suit against the Bureau of Prisons over the CMUs, released a statement this afternoon which reads:
Daniel McGowan has been released from the Metropolitan Detention Center in Brooklyn where he was taken into custody yesterday and is back at the halfway house where he has been residing since his release from prison in December. Yesterday, Daniel was given an “incident report” indicating that his Huffington Post blog post, “Court Documents Prove I Was Sent to Communication Management Units (CMU) for My Political Speech,” violated a BOP regulation prohibiting inmates from “publishing under a byline.” The BOP regulation in question was declared unconstitutional by a federal court in 2007, and eliminated by the BOP in 2010. After we brought this to the BOP’s attention, the incident report was expunged.
Kay Steiger is the managing editor of Raw Story. Her contributions have appeared in The American Prospect, The Atlantic, Campus Progress, The Guardian, In These Times, Jezebel, Religion Dispatches, RH Reality Check, and others. You can follow her on Twitter @kaysteiger.
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