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Gitmo May Be One of the Toughest Prisons on the Planet--for the Guards

3:30 PM, Feb 23, 2009 • By JOHN MCCORMACK
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The Washington Post story (linked below) declares that Guantanamo is "one of the toughest prisons on the planet."

Last May, in an attempt to put to rest some of this nonsense about Gitmo, Rear Admiral Mark Buzby, then commander of Joint Task for Guantanamo, explained the difference between "the Guantanamo that exists in ... pop culture and the media and most people's minds" and the "Guantanamo that exists here, the one that I see every day".

Our Camp 5 and Camp 6, which is where 75 percent of our population -- detainee population lives, those two buildings are actually models of a facility in Indiana -- a prison in Indiana and a prison in Michigan that were brought down here and built, so that the very same conditions that U.S. Bureau of Prisons prisoners live in are what our detainees live in, in terms of their place of incarceration.

Every detainee, no matter what their compliancy status is -- in other words, how well they behave and everything else -- they all get at least two hours of outdoor recreation with other people every day, every single day. They also get a shower every single day, which is actually more than the Bureau of Prisons offers their high-security folks. For those other 25 percent that are in highly compliant status -- in other words, they behave very well and follow the camp rules -- they are in a place called Camp 4, which is a very open-air, communal sort of facility, where they live in groups of six in a bunk room, if you will. And they have access to recreation about 22 hours a day, including group recreation and group prayer and all that sort of thing.

So to say that our conditions are especially arduous or different than ... what a normal prisoner might find in the Bureau of Prisons systems ... I think is probably twisting the truth quite a bit.

So life in Gitmo doesn't seem too hard for detainees, especially considering that most of them are accused of fighting with al Qaeda and the Taliban.

Life for the guards, however, is not so easy. See this detainee activity report from last April. Just a few statistics on what the Gitmo guards endured in 2007:

135 physical assaults

132 assaults with bodily fluids

1,734 incidents of failure to comply with orders

That means there was about one assault against the guards for every detainee held in Gitmo. Contrast that with New York state prisons. Erik Kriss, a spokesman for New York's Department of Correctional Services, tells me that in 2008 the rate of inmate assaults against staff throughout the state was 9 for every 1,000 inmates. So the assault rate is 100 times higher at Gitmo than the New York prisons.