Will Gitmo terrorists bring extra funding for federal prisons?

Erin Rosa at her fab new immigration blog, Gabacha.com, makes a very prescient point riding under the radar in the political pundit gabbing about transferring Guantánamo detainees to federal Supermax prisons.

While the guards are up to the task and are confident in their abilities to get the job done, there also needs to be additional funding to the facility in order the guarantee the safety of not only the workers, but also the inmates that would be transferred there.

As Rosa reported in her Newspaper Guild of America-CWA David S. Barr Award-winning investigative series, Inside Supermax, continued budget cuts and poor administrative decisions have lead to dangerous conditions for correctional officers and inmates in the Florence, Colo., complex.

Following those reports, Rosa broke the story of an April 2008 prison yard riot involving 200 armed and hooched-up inmates in the nearby Florence Federal Penitentiary that resulted in the race-related deaths of two inmates and an estimated 500 M-16, pepper ball and tear gas rounds fired by tower guards.

Following the lifting of the post-riot prison-wide lock down, a deadly inmate-on-inmate assault in August occurred spurring demands by then-U.S. Sen. Ken Salazar that the Bureau of Prisons make its investigation of the yard riot available to the public.

Increasing reports of violence against staff and inmates across the nation lends further credence to federal correctional workers’ claims that the entire system is an understaffed tinderbox.

Keep in mind that the federal pens and Supermax facilities are completely separate institutions and their security measures shouldn’t be conflated. But they are both subject to the vagaries of federal budgets and a “mission critical” staffing plan that ordered all agency institutions to come up with staffing rosters that listed the bare-minimum needed to run each prison safely. Workers contend that the bureau isn’t even fulfilling obligations for the bare-minimum and is vacating units for hours at a time.

The Guantánamo detention camp is a travesty of justice and humanity and should be closed. But politicians looking for easy solutions — and cover for their own complicity — should always be viewed with a heavy dose of skepticism.

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