From a recent report in the Cleveland Plain Dealer:
The fractured Amish community of Bergholz is distraught over news that bishop Samuel Mullet and seven of his hate crime co-defendants have been assigned to prisons scattered across the country — some as far as 1,000 miles away.
Samuel Mullet originally had been designated to serve his 15-year sentence in Loretto, Pa. — the same low-security federal correctional institution where former Cuyahoga County Auditor Frank Russo is being housed. But over the weekend, Mullet was notified that he had been “re-designated” to a prison in Texarkana, Texas.
Mullet’s three sons and the other men have been assigned to prisons in Minnesota, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Illinois, rather than the Elkton prison in Lisbon, Ohio, which is the closest to their rural homes in Jefferson County, about 100 miles southeast of Cleveland.
It occurred that this may be being done to dampen Mullet’s influence and weaken the group by spreading the convicts over such a large area. The article mentions “security concerns” factoring into the decision, which was made by the US Bureau of Prisons.
Unsurprisingly, Mullet’s defense attorney has questioned the assignments in a letter to US District Judge Dan Polster:
“Your honor, I have very serious concerns that these designations are not being made in the interests of justice,” Bryan wrote. “If the defendants are housed in separate facilities, all outside a reasonable travel distances from their families, our clients will experience additional hardships not anticipated by your honor when you imposed sentence.”
It’s not clear how much Polster can do, though, as he can only make recommendations: “I typically recommend the closest suitable facility to their residence so their family members have the best opportunity to visit them.”
A couple of questions immediately sprung to mind: how common is it to designate federal convicts to prisons so far away from their families? And in this case, is it just?
For one, given the importance of family to the members of this group, I can see how Bryan’s argument might resonate in his clients’ favor. Those will be expensive and distant taxi rides for the Bergholz children to visit their parents, and thus probably infrequent ones.
On the other hand, if this is a cult as many have described it, maybe this is the best way to decisively weaken the group and prevent future evils. Greater short-term pain for a (hoped-for) long-term good?
What do you think?