Prisons you never knew existed

On his second day in office, President Barack Obama signed an executive order to close the Guantanamo Bay military prison which had been initially opened by G.W.Bush in 2002.

Seven years and numerous debates with the Pentagon and the Congress later, Obama delivered a final plan to the Congress for closing the detention centre of Guantanamo Security, eventually.

“This is about closing a chapter in our history,”  claims Obama.

However, while the public observes -spellbound- the President step into the political arena once more to fight for human dignity against his opponents, history does not stand still.

Because regarding the US history of unjustified and cruel imprisonment…this chapter is still being written at this very moment.

Because at this very moment, the CMUs are still open.

In 2006 and 2008, the Federal Bureau of Prisons established two Communication Management Units (CMU), one in Terre Haute, Indiana and one in Marion, Illinois. Inmates “who, due to their current offense, conduct, or other verified information require increased monitoring of communications with persons in the community to ensure the safe, secure, and orderly running of BOP facilities and to protect the public” are being housed there, according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

Investigative journalist Will Potter examines how non-violent forms of protest are framed as terrorism- and how people end up in CMUs.

What makes the secret CMUs special is the paradox in their very nature: In a Communication Management Unit there is no communication to manage, since the detainees are not allowed any forms of contact.

At all.

The number of phone calls and letters is restricted to a dehumanizing degree, cutting off the inmates from reality. And when reality tries to sneak in a CMU in form of a visit from family or friends, physical communication such as touch is strictly prohibited, too.

In this case, the long-term deprivation of human contact equals the deprivation of human existence and dignity itself. As a family member of a CMU prisoner commented: “[T]hese units are not only an affront to civil liberties, they defy what it means to be human. They strip human beings of their chances for human connection, to be close to the people they love. They destroy families. They destroy people.”

But who are those people housed in the CMUs?

As the TED speaker notes, mainly Muslim men and political or environmental activists vanish behind the CMU’s doors. People sentenced at the altar of counter-terrorism and security. People living at the point where freedom of speech ends and where the criminalization of non-violent protest starts.

And while the world is captivated by President Obama’s final attempt to resolve the Guantanamo Bay issue and the horrifying waterboarding torture method, while the public is reading articles, watching the news on television, following the debate on any form of plattform possible, we forget that those who do drown in silence are the ones imprisoned in a CMU.

Panem et circenses in the 21st century.

Potter himself is being monitored by the Counter-Terrorism Unit. Why? Let him shine some light on the shocking US prisons you have never heard of before.


Photo credits to street artist itsmi

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