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Home » Documentaries » The Secret US Prisons You’ve Never Heard of Before | Will Potter

The Secret US Prisons You’ve Never Heard of Before | Will Potter

Investigative journalist Will Potter is the only reporter who has been inside a Communications Management Unit, or CMU, within a US prison. These units were opened secretly, and radically alter how prisoners are treated — even preventing them from hugging their children.

The following is taken from Will Potters website:

Father Daniel Berrigan once said that “writing about prisoners is a little like writing about the dead.”[i]

I think what he meant was that we treat prisoners as ghosts, unseen and unheard. It’s easy to simply ignore them, and even easier when the government goes to great lengths to keep them hidden.

As a journalist, I think these stories—of what people in power do when no one is watching—are precisely the stories we need to tell.

That’s why I began investigating the most secretive and experimental prison units in the United States, for so-called “second-tier terrorists.”[ii]

The government calls these prisons Communications Management Units, or CMUs. Prisoners and guards call them Little Guantanamo.

They are islands unto themselves, but unlike Gitmo, they’re right here at home, floating within larger federal prisons.

There are two CMUs. One is inside the prison in Terre Haute, Indiana.

The second is inside this prison in Marion, Illinois. [iii]

Neither underwent the formal review process required by law when they were opened.[iv]

CMU prisoners have all been convicted of crimes. Some cases are questionable, and some involve threats and violence. I’m not here to argue the guilt or innocence of any prisoner. I’m here because, as Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall said, when the prison gates slam shut, prisoners do not lose their human quality.[v]

Every prisoner I’ve interviewed has said there are three flecks of light in the darkness of prison[vi]: phone calls, letters, and visits from family. CMUs are not solitary confinement, but they radically restrict all of these, to levels that meet or exceed the most extreme prisons in the country.

Their phone calls can be limited to 45 minutes per month, compared to the 300 minutes other prisoners receive.[vii]

Their letters can be limited to six pieces of paper. [viii]

Their visits can be restricted to 4 hours per month, compared[ix] to the Supermax where Olympic Park bomber Eric Rudolph can receive 35 hours.[x] On top of that, CMU visits are non-contact, meaning prisoners aren’t allowed to hug their family.

As one CMU prisoner has said: “We are not being tortured here, except psychologically.”[xi]


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