Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Bring 'Em On

Doubts on Handling Terror Detainees Ends at Prison Gates:

VICTORVILLE, Calif. — The watchtowers of the federal penitentiary here rise above the desert hills like austere minarets. Inside, about 1,500 men are held in cells encased in thick concrete. The prison is wired with electronic sensors and cameras. Some 220 correctional officers keep watch.

The men here are among the most dangerous and most violent criminals in the nation. They include assassins, drug kingpins and members of fearsome criminal gangs. Officials say the penitentiary also holds more than one of the 216 prisoners serving time in the United States for crimes related to international terrorism.

Prisons like this could figure prominently in the Obama administration’s effort to close the prison at the naval base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. Politicians in both parties have expressed doubts that mainland prisons could safely hold those detainees, but federal prison officials say they share no such qualms.

Since the Victorville United States Penitentiary opened in 2005, no one has escaped, nor, prison officials said, has anyone even tried. No international terrorist has escaped from any part of the federal prison system, officials say.

“We’re more concerned about gangs like the Aryan Brotherhood, the Crips and the Bloods than anything having to do with terrorists,” said Joseph L. Norwood, the warden at the Victorville prison complex, which also has three lower-security prisons with a total of 4,400 inmates.
As I've pointed out repeatedly the past six months (most recently in May), this is more of political issue (and a fear issue) than a corrections issue. Speak with anyone who works in corrections, or has a functional knowledge of the level of security provided in our Federal system of prisons, and the notion that we "don't have a secure enough facility" here in the U.S. to hold these Gitmo detainees is nothing short of laughable.

The Bureau of Prisons Web site shows that international terrorists are held at many of its 115 facilities, including some medium- and low-security prisons. Officials say they are up to the task.

Bryan Lowry, a union leader for federal correctional officers and a guard at the medium-security prison in Forrest City, Ark., said terrorists were handled like any other inmates.

“At Forrest City we’ve housed some terrorists like Terry Nichols and Timothy McVeigh” of the Oklahoma City bombing, Mr. Lowry said. “We have detained some very dangerous, violent inmates. But our staff are well-trained. We are professional, and I believe we can take on any mission and house any type of inmate.”

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