Rule would allow 100% monitoring of inmates

The government is looking to increase surveillance on some prisoners who may still pose a risk to society even from behind bars.

The Bureau of Prisons announced Friday it is reopening the comment period on a rule that would help prison guards and law enforcement officers prevent certain high-risk prisoners, such as convicted terrorists and mobsters, from running criminal organizations from prison.

The Prisons Bureau said the rule would make it easier for authorities to monitor the telephone calls, mail and visiting logs of these inmates in an effort to prevent them from orchestrating or ordering further crimes. The rule would also seek to help protect victims and witnesses from other criminals, such as angry mobsters who want revenge.

"The ability to monitor such communication is necessary to ensure the safety, security, and orderly operation of correctional facilities, and protect the public," the agency wrote.

The rule would establish new standards for prisons that operate what's known as a communication management unit (CMU). The government puts some of the most dangerous prisoners in these programs so they can oversee all of their communications, a spokesman said.

Although many prisons monitor some of the communications of inmates, certain high-risk criminals require more intense, constant observation, the spokesman said.

"These are units where we would put inmates who require 100 percent monitoring of their communications," the spokesman said.

The Prison Bureau originally proposed the rule in 2010, but it was tied up in court litigation.

Four years later, the agency has agreed to reopen the comment period for another 15 days to allow inmates and others enough time to share their thoughts on the rule. The agency received more than 700 comments during the first comment period.

Two prisons already operate CMUs, but this would standardize the regulations for such monitoring and could expand it to more prisons.

These prisons are located in Indiana and Illinois.

The agency says inmates would be informed that they are entering a CMU.