Dzhokhar Tsarnaev Wants Better Prison Restrictions

The accused bomber's lawyers argue his conditions are unconstitutional.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev’s lawyers are arguing that he deserves less stringent restrictions on his imprisonment in a motion filed with the U.S. District Court in Boston. Attorneys for the accused Boston Marathon bomber say the limits on his communication with the outside world were put in place because of his accused crimes, not because of his behavior since being arrested, and thus he’s being denied his Constitutional rights to due process:

He is confined to his cell except for legal visits and very limited access to a small outdoor enclosure, on weekdays, weather permitting. The purported basis for these conditions lies in the crimes he is alleged to have committed prior to arrest, not any behavior during his confinement.

He’s also not allowed access to television, radio, or a roommate. He can’t pray with others, write letters more than once a week, or receive family photos. His lawyers note that the U.N. considers solitary confinement to be torture. (There is agitation to ease up on the use of solitary in Massachusetts, though we doubt advocates will seize on Tsarnaev—or Aaron Hernandez, for that matter—as a frontman for its ill effects.) His lawyers argue:

The government has not made any persuasive showing why these restrictions are necessary, nor has it demonstrated that less restrictive alternatives would not suffice.

In addition to being an actual legal motion intended to undo Attorney General Eric Holder’s ruling that Tsarnaev’s ability to communicate with people might result in death or injury it’s, inevitably, a big piece of schadenfreude for those less inclined to care about Tsarnaev’s access to television. “awwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww … isn’t that too flippin bad !!!” says one  kindhearted commenter. “Put him in general population. Won’t last long. Save the tax payers,” says a fiscally responsible Boston Herald user.

To be clear, we doubt that either the government or the lawyers want to put Tsarnaev with the general population. This is merely about whether there’s a public safety interest in limiting his contact with the family, friends (and groupies?) through means like letter writing and television. We’ll see what comes of the request.

Eric Randall
Eric Randall Eric Randall, Contributor at Boston Magazine