This is hardly the first legal complaint about conditions at Supermax. In a 2012 post about a suit put forward on behalf of five ADX inmates and other interested parties, writer Alan Prendergast summarized the portrait of the prison as a "filthy version of hell — a place where untreated, psychotic men mutilate themselves, have delusional conversations with ghosts and live in feces-caked isolation cells for months with little monitoring."
The latest suit, which is accessible below, comes via Johnson & Klein, PLLC, a firm with offices in Denver and Boulder.
In a statement, attorney Gail Johnson maintains that "our client went on hunger strikes as a means of passively protesting violations of his First Amendment rights to free speech and his right to practice his religion in peace. For years, the federal government, through Special Administrative Measures imposed by the Attorney General, prevented Mr. Abdulmutallab from communicating with his own sister. And like other Muslim inmates at ADX, he has been unable to practice his religion without harassment. When he resorted to hunger strikes to address these legitimate concerns, the prison retaliated against him by brutally force-feeding him and transferring him to an even more isolated part of the prison."
The SAMs imposed on Abdulmutallab "prohibit him from having any communication whatsoever with more than 7.5 billion people, the vast majority of people on the planet." For a four-year period, he was also forbidden to communicate with his sister, though he is currently able to do so. But group prayer of the sort called for by his Muslim faith is off the table, and he does not have the opportunity to consult with an imam, since none is employed on the ADX staff.
During his five years at ADX, the suit goes on, Abdulmutallab "has not been provided with a halal diet and instead has been forced — sometimes forcibly, sometimes as a result of having no other options — to consume foods that are considered haram, or religiously forbidden, in violation of his sincerely held religious beliefs."
Other force-feeding allegedly came in response to the aforementioned hunger strikes, and the approach taken to getting nourishment into Abdulmutallab is characterized as ultra-aggressive: "On one occasion, the force-feeding tube was placed down his windpipe instead of his esophagus, causing the nutritional supplement liquid to enter his lungs and resulting in Mr. Abdulmutallab feeling like he was being drowned in a manner akin to waterboarding. On other occasions, even when the force-feeding tube was placed down Mr. Abdulmutallab’s esophagus, the high speed and high volume used for the feeding has caused pain and discomfort and has been unnecessarily risky to Mr. Abdulmutallab’s health."
On top of that, the complaint continues, "some corrections officers have themselves harassed Mr. Abdulmutallab by displaying to him during prayer times magazines containing photographs of naked women, which is religiously offensive to him. Corrections officers have also defiled religious items in Mr. Abdulmutallab’s cell, such as his prayer rug and Qu’ran."
Abdulmutallab isn't seeking any changes related to the length of his sentence; he's currently serving four terms of life imprisonment plus fifty years for his attempt to use a weapon of mass destruction. Instead, he's asking for an injunction ordering that he be removed from solitary confinement, as well as Bureau of Prisons actions that will "allow him to engage in daily congregational prayers, provide him with regular access to an imam, and provide him with a halal diet in accordance with his sincerely held religious beliefs."
Click to read Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab v. Jeff Sessions, et. al.