A few weekends ago, our friend Peter Robinson and I had an exchange on the Corner about why it is so difficult to prevent prison inmates from continuing their criminal activities from behind bars. This AP story out of Florida is case in point—and sets the blood boiling.
Kifah Wael Jayyousi was charged in Florida, along with the so-called “dirty bomber” Jose Padilla, of various terrorism offenses. He has been convicted and sentenced to twelve years in jail. That should be the end of the court’s participation in his case. But no: though the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) has designated him to serve his sentence at a high-security unit in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Indiana, Florida federal judge Marcia Cooke has blocked the transfer, at least temporarily. Why? So she can entertain the claim that the transfer and increased monitoring to which convicted terrorists are subjected may violate their “rights.”
The claim is frivolous. Once a defendant is convicted, he is—in the argot of the criminal justice system—“committed to the custody of the Attorney General” to serve his sentence (BOP is a Justice Department agency.) The courts don’t run the prisons; their function is to ensure that no one is convicted and sent to a prison unless he has first had a fair trial. Once that happens, it’s for the Justice Department to decide where a sentence should be served and what the conditions of confinement should be. Yet, here is Judge Cooke convening a two-day hearing (which is not yet finished) to listen as a convicted terrorist and his lawyers moan that Terre Haute would be too draconian because Jayyousi’s “communications would be closely monitored, every piece of mail reviewed and visitors limited.”
According to the AP, Cooke magnanimously concedes that “the law does give prison officials broad discretion over inmates’ lives.” As she put it, “They get to decide when you wake up, when you go to sleep, when you’re going to eat, and who gets to visit.” For Cooke, this arrangement “may not be preferable, but it may be correct.” That’s big of her … but one wonders what she figures would be “preferable.”
Did I mention that both Obama and McCain would close Guantanamo Bay and bring the jihadist combatants held there into the territorial United States … where they, too, could start filing petitions like Jayyousi’s?