Will Supermax Become Gitmo of the Rockies?

There's lots of speculation that the Guantanamo detainees may be moved to Supermax at Florence, Colorado, home to the nation's supposedly most dangerous criminals. Not so fast. Right now, there's no room at the inn.

It would probably take the building of a separate facility. Or, the moving of our supposedly most dangerous criminals to prisons in other states.

As for the folks in Florence, many of whom have jobs because of the prison industry there, they have no problem with accomodating the Gitmo detainees:[More...]

Once details were worked out, Florence residents probably would be supportive, Town Manager Tom Piltingsrud said.

They took the initiative on establishing Supermax in the first place, scraping together money to buy land and then donating it to the government for the complex, he said.They remain glad for the jobs it provides.

"It's a recession-proof industry," Piltingsrud said.

The Mayor of Florence agrees:

Florence Mayor Bart Hall has little worry about maintaining the security of the area, even in the event of a large-scale transfer from Guantanamo. Hall noted that in rural Colorado, people are pretty self-reliant.

"Most of us own guns," he said.

Supermax is not set up, however, to accomodate prisoners awaiting trial.

I'd be fine with the transfer except for those who haven't been convicted of a crime. The conditions are far too harsh. But I'm sure if they get moved to Supermax and are allowed access to the courts, there will be plenty of Colorado lawyer willing to assist them in challenging the conditions of their confinement.

As I wrote the day Zacarias Moussaoui arrived at Supermax:

He will spend his days alone in a 8 by 10 or 7 × 12 foot cell, in 23 hour a day isolation. His meals will be delivered through a slot in his cell door. The shower will be brought to his cell. His one hour a day of exercise will be with a guard, not other inmates. He will have no contact with other inmates.

In time, if he's good, he may work his way up from a windowless cell to one in another unit with a small window where he can see the sky and clouds and may be able to see other prisoners (who can't see him due to a one-way mirror finish on the internal window.) He may be able to get his lights turned off at night.

All in all, this will be a dismal, dehumanizing, psychologically debilitating existence for him. The prospect of winning his appeal will keep him going. Should he lose all of his appeals, he will have nothing to look to forward to but decades of confinement under these conditions. What a wretched way to spend one's life.

Memo to Obama and Congress: If it will help close Guantanamo, fine, bring them to Colorado. But as to those who are not going to be charged with a crime, if you think you can hold them indefinitely in preventive detention, you better build a separate facility for them with conditions appropriate for a pre-trial detainee. If you intend to subject them to the punitive conditions for convicted prisoners at Supermax, be ready for a host of legal challenges, with the Government paying the hefty tab for the expenses of the litigation.

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  • Display: Sort:
    As long as they get trials, they can stay in Gitmo (none / 0) (#1)
    by BruceM on Sat May 23, 2009 at 09:42:08 AM EST
    We could create a U.S district court down in Guantanamo (U.S. District Court for the District of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba) and try them there.  Of course there are constitutional issues about being tried in the place in which the crime was committed and the right to a jury from that location, but for crimes committed outside the US, there is wide lattitude for that sort of thing.  We could deem the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to be the one that has jurisdiction, and just have it sit down at Gitmo, and bring a jury pool down there, too.

    That is if keeping them at Gitmo is the #1 concern, preventing real criminal trials.  There's no reason we can't send an Article III judge down to Cuba.  President Obama can appoint me to be a federal judge and I'll go down to Gitmo and try every one of those detainee cases (and yes, I'm a licensed attorney with criminal experience).  The question is whether he wants a judge who will be fair and won't automatically side with the government.  I know that's what Bush would want.  Is Obama the same?  

    I don't care where we keep them, although Gitmo is definitely bad publicity.  As long as they get trials or get freed (they are suspects, innocent until proven guilty) and they cannot be detained forever out of convenience and political cowardice.  I'd rather not keep them detained forever and have one of them come back and commit an act of terrorism on American soil, killing hundreds of cute American children, whose cries and screams can be heard for hours as they suffer in the burning rubble of the faith-based terrorist attack.  It will be horrible, but at least we'll know the Constitution, and our most fundamental principles, are still intact.

    Construct a new (none / 0) (#2)
    by KeysDan on Sat May 23, 2009 at 10:45:03 AM EST
    prison system at the Dry Tortugas--a former fort on an island about 60 miles west of Key West.

    dumb (none / 0) (#3)
    by BruceM on Sat May 23, 2009 at 04:28:11 PM EST
    How would that "island prison" be any better than Gitmo, except for the mere fact it's not Gitmo?  

    Oh, and they call it "Dry" tortugas for a reason - because there's no fresh water to be found there.  


    As Secretary Robert Gates said, (none / 0) (#4)
    by KeysDan on Sun May 24, 2009 at 01:21:56 PM EST
    Guantanamo has a taint.  It would be better because of the mere fact that it's not Gitmo.  Moreover, it is in Florida, not far from Cuba, so translocation of the equipment would not be all that difficult.    As for the dry part, that could be managed, and besides, if we stop waterboarding, our water requirements would be reduced.