[Image: The Terre Haute Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), photo via Raw Story.]
It seems the Justice Department has established a new prison unit in Terre Haute, Indiana to detain “a hodgepodge of second-tier terrorism inmates,” the Washington Post tells us, most of which, not to our surprise, are Arab Muslims. Named the Communications Management Unit (CMU), it is housed in the former death row facility within Terre Haute’s Federal Correctional Complex where Timothy McVeigh was executed.
Falling under the jurisdiction of the Federal Bureau of Prisons, lawyers and prison advocates have pointed out that the CMU was created without any public notice or due process, nor with any clear advisement or outline as to how inmates are chosen or would be sent there.
Here, the ability of inmates to communicate with the outside world with any sort of privacy is completely deprived. For example, “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.” These tactics are apparently within the rules, and "by concentrating resources in this fashion,” officials claim, “it will greatly enhance the agency's capabilities for language translation, content analysis and intelligence sharing,"
But some believe that the only reason why these communication rights remain in tact at all are simply to ascertain terrorist group associations.
However, these tactics have come under intense public scrutiny, with some calling the CMU the place where all Arab Muslim terrorist suspects and prisoners are being rounded up in a national operation to house them under a single roof, whereby they can be intensely watched for having and making connections to terrorist groups. According to Raw Story, the current unit has at present only 16 prisoners, but is expected to have 60-70 more added soon.
Critics have lambasted the unit for its conduct of racial profiling, since these tactics are not employed with other high-security inmates. They also claim that this new unit is operating in a certain nebulosity of legal language left purposefully ambiguous in the Bureau’s code of regulations to allow the transfer of Arab and Muslim prisoners to the CMU from other facilities around the country, setting up a 'race and religion-specific' compound that not only can get away with incarcerating proven terrorist criminals, but suspects, detainees, other non-terrorists, and perhaps even witnesses, too.
So, if you are an Arab or a Muslim in an American prison, get ready because you may soon be sharing a tailor made facility with all of the nation’s other Arab and Muslim inmates, just in order to share space with proven terrorists, when all you may have done was steal some bread from the liquor store.
For years, government analysts have feared the rise of radical Islam in American prisons, so, I wonder, what do they think will be the impact of this type of mass grouping, both in this CMU and within the larger Arab/Muslim community? Is this the kind of strategic radicalization of Islam the American government is counting on? Do prisons engineer radicalism, of all kinds? Will all Arab prisoners in the U.S. one day occupy the same prison together, alone? Will all of the gang-plagued prisons one day become ethnically divided this way; total prison population segregation?
If anything, maybe the CMU can help us see how the logic of the War on Terror continues to revise the spaces of detention and the politics that oversee them, where human rights can be gobbled up by some (il)legal black hole, and where a mass assortment of immigrants, detainees, asylum seekers, and terrorist criminals gradually come together to form a single suspect line-up, posied at the edge of a hungry carceral landscape that waits to devour them.