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Thursday, June 21, 2007

Gitmo in Kansas?

I don't know how I missed this before, but the Lawrence Journal-World has reported that if the prison at Guantanamo Bay ever closed, the inmates might end up at Fort Leavenworth.

Their destination would be the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in northeast Kansas, about 35 miles from Lawrence. The USDB, as it is known locally, is the only maximum security prison in the United States.

I toured the USDB in the late 1980s when I was still a reporter for The Wichita Eagle. At that time, it was a grim place with a "special processing unit," i.e. death chamber, and an 1,000-inmate maximum security "barracks" that was a dead ringer for Alcatraz as imagined in the old Burt Lancaster movie, "Birdman of Alcatraz."

By the time I took the tour of the USDB, I had already done stories in several prisons in both Kansas and Michigan. At that time, the USDB was by far the creepiest of them all.

However, those old maximum security barracks were torn down in 2002, and today the prison only has a capacity of 500. It has a daily inmate count of 450.

Personally, I think it may well be a good idea to stop using Gitmo as an excuse for inhumane treatment of inmates -- treatment that does nothing but ruin our reputation around the world. If the end of Gitmo means prisoners end up in Kansas, then that might well be a good thing. However, that idea won't work unless the military puts a lot more money into the USDB.

PHOTO: A 2002 photo of the detention camp of Gitmo.


firstcitybook said...

The new DB is no less creepy than the Castle, and it still has a special processing unit. I taught English at both the Castle and the new DB a few years ago. It turns out that the government should have kept the Castle open for just such a case as the transfer of prisoners from Cuba. Considering how long it took for the construction of the new DB, I don't foresee this transfer occurring. Ironically, some of the inmates currently at the DB are associated with the problems at Abu Ghraib.

Diane Silver said...

Is there still a maximum security unit at the DB? It seems to me there would have to be given the kinds of prisoners who are housed there. I was under the impression that the DB was supposed to be the major military prison in this country.

Interesting about the inmates. So, some of the folks who were convicted at Abu Ghraib are at the DB? Can you say who they are?