Bureau of Prisons Can’t Decide Whether There Is, Or Is Not, a First Amendment

Apparently, when the Bureau of Prisons released environmental activist Daniel McGowan back to his halfway house last week (after having first detained him for writing a post at HuffPo), they made him sign something saying he wouldn’t do anything radical like write another HuffPo post.

McGowan was forced to sign a document stating that “writing articles, appearing in any type of television or media outlets, news reports and/or documentaries without prior BOP approval is strictly prohibited.” Violating that agreement, which he signed under duress, might mean going back to jail.

Well, now they seem to have rethought this whole Constitution thing, because when HuffPo called BOP on the document, BOP said McGowan could write something without being detained again.

When HuffPost contacted the Bureau of Prisons’ regional office in Philadelphia, however, they quickly backtracked on the agreement.

“He’s not prohibited from doing that, and we’re going to address it with the (halfway house) contractor,” said Lamine N’Diaye, a BOP public information officer. If McGowan wrote another HuffPost blog today, said N’Diaye, “he’s not going to be punished.”

Once upon a time foundational concepts like the First Amendment didn’t used to be so confusing.

10 replies
  1. phred says:

    BOP and their contractors are just getting ahead of themselves a bit. Now that the 4th is gone, can the 1st really be far behind?

  2. Kathleen Kenney, J.D. Auschwitz U. says:

    Commission for McGowan’s next HuffPo Article: the text of his Petition to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights concerning illegal US government derogation of Article 19. Let’s see Kathleen Kenney defend what passes for law in the BOP gulag, and see how it holds up in the civilized world. It will be fun to see a screw trying to play lawyer in the real world.

  3. Bitter Angry Drunk says:

    When I reflect on the fact that the Constitution has become an empty relic, one thing that gives me comfort is to think of the gun nuts, those silly paranoiacs who know neither the name Daniel McGowan nor the actual experience of government persecution…

  4. orionATL says:

    lamine n’diayou?

    like the doj, our federal prison staffs are manned/womaned by (some senegalese) immigrants?


    what easier way to obtain easy/no fuss compliance from employees.

  5. beowulf says:

    In other words, Martin Luther King, Jr. didn’t have a right under the First Amendment to write his Letter From a Birmingham jail (which was written for publication at the behest of a Time editor). Sounds reasonable.

    The interesting question is whether this was unique to Daniels or if its a standard policy to coerce everyone in his position to sign this.

  6. orionATL says:

    @Bill Michtom:

    no i don’t, nor do i care.

    i would be very interested in knowing the number of naturalized citizens or first-generation american citizens who are employeed by any part of the federal justice system.

    the fbi has, for example, been rumored for years to favor hiring from certain (non-immigrant) groups in the u.s.

    i see occassional names associated with consequential positions in the justice department that suggest or are acknowledged to be of recent immigrant background.

    there is nothing prima facie wrong with immigrants or first-generation holding any job in the federal justice system.

    what would be of consequence would be if the hiring were intended not to obtain a competent employee but to insure easy compliance with the system and little likelihood of challenge to official misconduct or acquire ideologically based employees – john yoo and antonin scalia come to mind (as, of course, do bybee and john roberts.

    one does not have to be paranoid or inclined to witch hunts to understand that large, open systems are vulnerable to being quietly undermined – the sierra club serves as an illustration.

    the federal justice system would be an excellent, powerful place for such an effort to be developed.

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