Daniel McGowan
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Archive for July, 2013

Village Voice article on Daniel’s dismissal from CMU lawsuit

Thursday, July 18th, 2013

Daniel McGowan, Put In an Extreme Prison Isolation Unit For Writing Things, Loses Lawsuit Against Bureau of Prisons

by Anna Merlan

A New York environmental activist stuck in an extreme isolation unit for writing letters and publishing articles — and then re-jailed for writing about being put in that isolation unit in the first place — has had his lawsuit against the Federal Bureau of Prisons dismissed, a development he calls “gross and unjust.”

We’ve written before about Daniel McGowan, a 39-year-old environmental activist from Rockaway Beach, Queens who was once affiliated with the Earth Liberation Front, a group he says he left in the summer of 2001. He spent five and a half years in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, convicted of arson and conspiracy to commit arson, for trying to burn down two Oregon lumber yards in 2001, actions for which the ELF as a group claimed responsibility.

See also: Daniel McGowan Forbidden From Publishing Articles Without Permission

McGowan was released in December of 2012 and sent to a halfway house, where he was supposed to stay for six months before beginning three years of supervised release. But he was briefly re-imprisoned this April, three days after writing an article for the Huffington Post about his time in a Communications Management Unit, an experimental pod within the prison that drastically cut off his ties to the outside world.

McGowan explained in the Huffington Post piece that he landed in the CMU about a year into his prison bid, despite having a spotless disciplinary record. CMU rules drastically limited his access to phone calls and visits, as well as banning physical contact with his family and friends when they were allowed to see him. When his wife visited, they were separated by a thick pane of Plexiglass and a row of bars, communicating by phone.

In 2010, with help from the Center for Constitutional Rights, McGowan and several other CMU inmates filed suit against the Bureau of Prisons, challenging the constitutionality of CMUs and alleging that inmates were often assigned to them for their political beliefs, a practice which the CCR called “discriminatory and retaliatory.” In McGowan’s case, he and the CCR believed he’d been stuck in the CMU for writing letters and articles, which were still, when last we checked, constitutionally protected First Amendment activities.

As memos released during the suit revealed, he was right. They showed that McGowan was tossed in the CMU in large part for writing articles and letters about animal rights, as well as the need to unite the animal liberation and Earth liberation movements. Les Smith, a chief in the BOP’s Correctional Programs division, wrote that McGowan’s communications needed to be monitored constantly:

Inmate McGowan’s communications warrant heightened controls and review due to the fact that he was an organizer of [Earth Liberation Front]; wrote communiques for ALF/ELF actions; used coded communications during the commission of the offenses; participated in the recruitment of others into the group; espoused his anti-government beliefs verbally and in written communications; trained others to design and construct incendiary devices as well as how to conduct arson without being caught; and demonstrated the ability to plan, organize and carry out his plans without detection.While incarcerated and through social correspondence and articles written for radical publications, Inmate McGowan has attempted to unite the radical environmental and animal liberation movements.

 

Three days after the HuffPo piece went live, on April 4, McGowan was picked up from his Brooklyn halfway house and locked up at the Metropolitan Detention Center. After one night, he was re-released to the halfway house, but with a new condition: no publishing articles.

“As far as we know, this is a made-up rule applied only to Daniel,” the CCR wrote in a press release, “in a further attempt to chill his freedom of speech.”

On June 5, McGowan was released from the halfway house, to go home to his wife and begin his supervised release. “I am out of the reach of the Bureau of Prisons,” he says. He’s now working as a receptionist in a law firm. On Tuesday, as Courthouse News first reported, Senior U.S. District Judge Barbara Rothstein dismissed McGowan from the BOP lawsuit, under the logic that his release from prison has made his standing to bring the case moot. Only one CMU inmate remains in the lawsuit, Kifah Jayyousi, who was convicted of aiding Al-Qaeda.

The Center for Constitutional Rights said it was “deeply disappointed” by the dismissal of McGowan’s suit. It added that a portion of the suit was dismissed under the Prison Litigation Reform Act, a 1996 federal law that makes it very difficult to prisoners to sue the government for damages unless they’ve been physically injured. The CCR refers to this as a “second-class system of justice.”

“I have to say, I find the dismissal severely disappointing,” McGowan told us via email yesterday. “That my claims can be dismissed on what amounts to a technicality is just a sad example of how badly our system of justice works. The PLRA essentially states
that prisoners cannot seek relief from the courts for emotional or mental injuries, only physical injuries. There is something very gross and unjust about that. After spending 48 months in the CMU, I’m appalled that I will not get my day in court and be able to testify about what it is like to live in those conditions and the severe impact CMU designation has on one’s family and community ties.”

Send story tips to the author, Anna Merlan.

Daniel McGowan, Jailed For HuffPost Blog, Loses Lawsuit Against Bureau Of Prisons

Monday, July 15th, 2013

By Matt Sledge, msledge@huffingtonpost.com

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/07/15/daniel-mcgowan-huffpost-lawsuit_n_3600724.html?utm_hp_ref=politics

A federal court has dismissed an environmental activist’s claims against the U.S. Bureau of Prisons over a restrictive prison wing he was housed in, but a lawsuit filed by other prisoners against the government over its restrictive communication management units continues.

Daniel McGowan, 38, served seven years in federal prison for arson connected with the Earth Liberation Front, four of them in the secretive communication management units, or CMUs, dubbed “Little Guantanamo” by critics.

Along with dozens of other mostly Muslim inmates, McGowan’s phone calls with the outside world and physical contact with his family were severely limited. Even after he was released to a halfway house, McGowan was briefly tossed back into prison this year for writing a Huffington Post blog entry detailing his case.

McGowan’s lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights had argued that his re-jailing proved he was still at risk for re-incarceration in the CMUs. But the judge overseeing the lawsuit disagreed, citing a 1990s-era law that severely restricts the rights of federal prisoners to challenge cruel and unusual punishment.

McGowan’s lawyers at the Center for Constitutional Rights said in a statement that they were “deeply disappointed” by Senior Judge Barbara J. Rothstein’s decision, but that they would push on with the larger lawsuit.

CCR Press Release about Daniel’s claims being dismissed on Aref v. Holder

Monday, July 15th, 2013

Former Prisoner’s First Amendment Claims Dismissed Under “Second Class System of Justice”

BOP Not Liable for Retaliation Against Activist Daniel McGowan

press@ccrjustice.org

July 15, 2013, New York – Today, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) released the following statement in response to the dismissal of the claims in a federal lawsuit that plaintiff Daniel McGowan was placed in highly-restrictive Communications Management Units while in federal prison in retaliation for protected First Amendment activity. The other claims in the case,Aref v. Holder, continue.

We are deeply disappointed by the court’s dismissal of Daniel McGowan’s claims against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP). Mr. McGowan was designated, and then re-designated, to the Communications Management Units (CMU) in blatant retaliation for his political speech and activities. At the CMUs, he had severely restricted access to telephone calls and social visits – including a total ban on contact visits with his loved ones.  Once he had been released to a halfway house, the BOP once again retaliated against Mr. McGowan, unconstitutionally placing him in federal custody days after he published blog piece about the CMUs on the Huffington Post.  While our claims challenging broad due process violations at the CMUs will proceed, Aref v. Holder also sought accountability for these acts of retaliation against protected First Amendment activity. Now, the court has held that, while non-prisoners may sue under these circumstances, the Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) bars Mr. McGowan’s damages claims because he was not subjected to physical harm.  CCR condemns the second class system of justice created by the PLRA, which places unjust hurdles between prisoners and redress for constitutional violations.  We will continue to vigorously pursue our case against the BOP.

The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.