After the September 11 attacks, the Department of Justice (DOJ) issued a rule that expanded the Bureau of Prisons’ (BOP) powers under the special administrative measures (SAMs) promulgated after the mid-1990’s bombings of the World Trade Center and the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma. The SAM regulations allow the attorney general unlimited and unreviewable discretion to strip any person in federal custody of the right to communicate confidentially with an attorney . They also apply to convicted individuals held by BOP as well others held by DOJ, such as those simply accused of crimes, material witnesses and immigration detainees.
DOJ should repeal the regulation that directs BOP to facilitate the monitoring of communications between detainees and attorneys; repeal the SAMs that restrict communications by certain BOP prisoners; and end the authority of wardens and the attorney general to issue SAMs. Because SAMs also permit extreme social isolation of certain prisoners, BOP should conduct a mental health screening of all those currently subject to SAMs by competent mental health personnel and remove any individuals identified as seriously mentally ill to an institution that can provide appropriate mental health services.