Guantanamo Detainees Don't Warrant Supermax

Criminal defense attorney Gerry Shargel makes the argument today at Daily Beast that isolating Guantanamo detainees in a new Supermax facility may be a worse fate and unnecessary.

Do the untried and unconvicted Guantanamo inmates require this level of security? Absent a particularized showing of need, locking up a "detainee" in virtual isolation—unearned suffering—is abject cruelty.

He does a good job of summarizing the draconian conditions at a supermax facility: [more...]

These deplorable conditions are already well known in the criminal law community. Prisoners at a super-max or other special housing units are locked up in complete isolation for 23 hours each day. The cell is often windowless, with artificial light kept on day and night. Although inmates are locked up alone, there is no privacy. A camera keeps a constant watchful eye. There is virtually no contact with other prisoners. The prison guards provide no company. A tray passed through a narrow horizontal slot in the cell door feeds the prisoner. The horizontal slot is multi-purpose.

Before the inmate leaves the cell he puts his hands behind him and then through the slot, waiting to be cuffed. Only when cuffed is the door opened. The prisoner's legs are shackled before he is awkwardly led to his twice-weekly shower or his daily hour of exercise. When out of the cell, there is no social interaction. Exercise will be taken in an outdoor cage under the cold gaze of a usually silent guard. On many days there will no exercise because of inclement weather and the prisoner remains in his cell for the full 24 hours, sometimes weeks on end.

Reading material is scarce; a radio and a small black & white television with limited reception are the only form of entertainment. There is no collective prayer; services are piped in through the radio.

Moving the detainees, particularly those for whom no criminal charges are contemplated, to a Supermax is worse than just changing the Gitmo zip code. It's prolonging torture. As Gerry says, while Gitmo must be closed:

The solution, though, does not require transfer of the detainees to a prison that once again will show the worst that America has to offer.

More details on life at a Supermax here.

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    well heck, (none / 0) (#1)
    by cpinva on Wed Dec 23, 2009 at 04:07:10 PM EST
    they've already been locked up, for years in many cases, at gitmo, without ever having been tried/convicted of anything. that no longer seems to be prerequisite for indefinite incarceration, so why should it be any different for a "supermax" type of facility?

    Exactly (none / 0) (#2)
    by Inspector Gadget on Wed Dec 23, 2009 at 04:47:48 PM EST
    Moving them to a facility that's hugely expensive, 10X bigger than the number of inmates require, retrofitting the place to their specs, and staffing doesn't solve the problem of Gitmo...it merely relocates it.

    People wouldn't resent Gitmo if there was no torture taking place, and detainees were being charged in a timely manner or released.


    misses the point (none / 0) (#3)
    by diogenes on Wed Dec 23, 2009 at 05:57:04 PM EST
    The supermax is presumably to keep out those who would stage a suicide attack to try to free the prisoners.  Why they need to be moved from gitmo in the first place, then, is beyond me.

    Guantanamo on Hell's Branch. (none / 0) (#4)
    by Ben Masel on Wed Dec 23, 2009 at 09:35:47 PM EST
    also referred to as Hell's Branch Creek.

    Places like Super Max (none / 0) (#6)
    by jondee on Thu Dec 24, 2009 at 10:32:25 AM EST
    Are part of the reason why some countries, with much, much lower incidences of violent crime (anyone  ever wonder why?), refuse on humanitarian grounds to extradite prisoners to the U.S.