Thursday, October 8, 2009
New Orleans, Louisiana
OH MY GOD —
THE TERRORISTS ARE COMING TO LOUISIANA!
There are 241 remaining detainees imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, and the president says he will shut it down in early 2010. So where do you send these suspected terrorists? Other countries don’t want them. So do you want them in Louisiana?
Congressional Republicans are seizing on this issue, stirring up quite a scare campaign in media appearances and in a video posted on the internet. The GOP is warning that that if the White House relocates some of Gitmo’s remaining accused thugs to U.S. prisons, they could pose an unspecified threat to local communities. “TERRORISTS,” the video warns in bold scary letters, “COMING TO A NEIGHBORHOOD NEAR YOU.” What about Louisiana? Do we want these terrorists here? You’re darn right.
Word out of Washington is that the Bureau of Prisons is quietly looking at various sites nationwide to house these detainees. And Louisiana is in the mix of possibilities. There is a major illegal immigrant detention center located in Oakdale up in the northwestern part of the state. The Oakdale facility presently houses a minimum and medium security prison, as well as the detainee facility that can hold more than 2000 prisoners. Edwin Edwards, Enron’s Andrew Falco and WorldCom’s Bernie Evers are all housed at the minimum security facility there. Close by is another federal prison at Pollack, just north of Alexandria.
Angola prison would also be a possible site in a joint federal-state effort. This remote area north of Baton Rouge has over 5000 acres, and is surrounded on two sides by the Mississippi River. Warden Burl Cain, who has a number of “death row” inmates there, would have no problem riding herd on the whole Gitmo gang.
But why would any community want to house these dangerous guys? For the big bucks and the jobs. Five to Seven Hundred well paid employees would be needed to run such a facility. Guards at federal prisons in Louisiana often make well over $50,000 annually. Local businesses are needed to supply food, equipment, and various other items necessary to keep such an operation up and running. It would be a huge financial influx for any community.
The feds are obviously anxious to spend the bucks to get some locals to take these detainees. The Pacific island nation of Palau was reportedly in line for some $200 million in U.S. aid to take a few off our hands. Bermuda is also on the list of countries being asked to help with significant financial assistance available in return. But isn’t this little more than a vulgar display of dealing in human misery for financial gain? Darn right, and Louisiana should jump at the chance to take advantage of these inducements.
OK, so the big bucks might be available, but wouldn’t such relocation to the Bayou State put surrounding local communities at risk? Do we really want to allow these dangerous characters into our borders? Look, the U.S. prison system currently houses tens of thousands of spree killers, vicious murderers, Mafia bosses, and even terrorists, like Jose Padilla, failed “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, and “20th hijacker Zacharias Moussaoui. Don’t forget our home-grown lovelies like Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski and Terry Nichols.
None of the 347 convicted terrorists already here and housed in other U.S. prisons have escaped, and for obvious reasons. They are incarcerated 24/7 in the same wing with lifers, in individual cells with no contact involving other prisoners. Don’t expect to see a terrorist spear litter in the median on I-10.
Look to past experience to prove that the fears surrounding this issue are being exaggerated for political effect. During World War II, some 400,000 POWs from Germany and Japan were held in more than 500 prison camps all over the United States, including Louisiana, with few incidents or community protests.
Louisiana would be a natural for a major federal prison to hold these bad guys. No other state incarcerates more people, not just in the U.S. but anywhere. So we have become pretty darn efficient in handling prisoners at all levels. Cain and Company up at Angola certainly know how to ice the bad guys, and build a “supermax” facility where even a cockroach couldn’t escape. So the fear that some scrawny Taliban is so cunning and strong that he will be able to break out of our toughest maximum -security prisons just doesn’t hold water. Or maybe only in the movies.
Pumping 60 million dollars a year into the state’s economy ought to make the idea of incarcerating foreign prisoners at least worth reviewing. In the meantime, it’s almost comical to suggest that any of the so called “high-value” detainees at Gitmo cannot be safely and profitably be incarcerated in Louisiana. After all, when they get a taste of Louisiana prisons, these jihadists may feel that Guantanamo looked like Club Med, and they might be begging to go back.
“I mean, we’ve had all these awful pictures from the prison in Iraq and these sort of memos floating around about justifying torture, all this kind of stuff. And it makes you want to take a shower, you know.”
Peace and Justice
Jim Brown’s weekly column appears in numerous newspapers and websites throughout the south. To read past columns going back to 2002, go to www.jimbrownla.com.