Nobody should have to file a pro-se motion to compel access to his own legal counsel but I did just that last week. As of now, I've been in the Special Housing Unit (SHU) at FCI Sheridan for over a month and have only been able to speak with my defense team once. I should have had a polygraph and a legal visit recently but did not. My only legal call was last week after just over 4 weeks in the SHU and only after staging a disruptive protest. I covered my cell window and would not uncover it until the lieutenant promised that I would get a legal call the next day As a result the staff had to choose between giving me a legal call and doing a cell extraction. The extraction would have required gas and a group of COs in riot gear called the SORT Team. Covering the windows give inmates leverage because the guard can't complete the required inmate count. A couple of hours later my lawyers got the call they'd waited over a month for despite numerous requests to speak with me.
"They hate us." said one of my lawyers about the staff there. The excuses they had been given were like the ones I was given by Associate Warden Tom Short the other day. He said that the staff member that schedules visits for the FDC didn't work there anymore and they are short on staff. As a result lawyers struggle to visit pre-trial detainees at the FDC. If a FDC inmate is taken across the street to the FCI SHU, contact is all but lost. I was better off in the county "hole" where my lawyers could visit me anytime and I could try to call them any day.
The FCI SHU is used to house FDC inmates for disciplinary reasons because the FDC has no "hole". The SHU was built to punish sentenced inmates at the FCI. Such inmates seldom consult with legal counsel, so the SHU is not equipped to facilitate meaningful contact with attorneys. The only other way to communicate is by snail mail which is unacceptable because besides being slow, the mail room has repeatedly opened my legal mail outside of my presence despite clearly established federal law against it. And the FDC staff has read and confiscated confidential, legal material from my cell. Now I'm in the FCI SHU for protesting an unlawful search and my legal team is afraid to send me documents because they are not safe here. This is a violation of the 6th Amendment that constructively denies me the right to counsel.
Rarely will you find a better example of a 6th Amendment violation resulting in prejudice. First, there is the chilling effect that the unlawful search, seizure and partial destruction of my legal material has had on attorney/client communications. Second, the inability of Warden Ives to overcome his staffing issues without interfering with attorney/client communications makes it almost impossible for FDC inmates in the SHU to work with their attorneys at all.
I've also been banned from phone use so even if I go back to the FDC, I can't call my lawyers and the overworked counselor will no doubt be too busy to help me call them or help them call me. Ever since Counselor Perez got fired, Counselor Waldner has been tasked with twice the work that he was hired to do. This is the biggest threat to the speedy trial rights of other inmates and I. The BOP seem to be using bureaucracy to slow us down without any accountability.