Prisoners have a right to confidential communication with their attorneys. However, when the inmate has been accused of trying to perpetrate terror against the institution where he’s incarcerated while abusing that communication, there is a problem. Now a solution has been reached that should remedy the situation.
Thomas O. Bastian reportedly converted to the Muslim faith in prison and became radicalized. He is charged with plotting to set off an explosive device in the Buckeye state prison where he was serving a life sentence for murder. His wife, Michelle Bastian, formerly of Florence, already has been sentenced to eight-plus years in prison for mailing him bomb-making instructions and terrorist promotional materials. The materials, allegedly from al-Qaida and the Islamic State, were labeled as “legal mail” when they were sent.
Bastian now has been held in a Maricopa County jail, run by the county Sheriff’s Office, while awaiting trial. Apparently because of his history, the Sheriff’s Office opened his mail, and some of it was shared with the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the FBI. Both agencies denied violating Bastian’s rights.
A Maricopa County judge ruled that the Sheriff’s Office violated Bastian’s rights, but she wisely decided that the terrorism case should not be dismissed. The judge ruled that a lawyer or retired judicial officer would be hired to review issues about Bastian’s mail. He also would receive a laptop and headphones to communicate with his attorneys.
It appears that the nature of Bastian’s alleged crime, involving threats against a prison and use of the U.S. mail, contributed to this violation of his rights. Jail security overreacted, but nevertheless, the concern was real. The judge has found a way to protect the inmate’s rights while also protecting the safety of corrections officers and officials.
Inmates today are very creative and sometimes try to take advantage of the system that exists to protect the rights of all Americans. Meanwhile, they still must face justice and the consequences of their actions.