New Guantanamo Facility Safer for Guards, More Comfortable for Detainees
By Kathleen T. Rhem
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Jan. 11, 2007 Five years after the first detainees from the war on terror arrived at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, a new state-of-the-art facility there is making duty safer for guards and more comfortable for detainees.
Camp 6, which became operational in December and cost $38 million to build, now houses roughly 160 of the 395 or so detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Navy Rear Adm. Harry Harris Jr., commander of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, said in an interview here today.
The air-conditioned facility, modeled on the most modern and efficient prisons in the United States, is more comfortable for detainees. It allows them to have more room and privacy than earlier facilities used at Guantanamo and is similar to Camp 5, another modern facility built in 2004. “It’s much better across the board than the facilities from which they came,” Harris said of Camp 6.
More importantly, Camp 6 makes it harder for detainees to assault guards, Harris said.
In 2006, detainees assaulted guards with bodily fluids more than 400 times. The cells in older camps were made of mesh fencing, which made it possible for detainees to pelt guards with feces, urine and other bodily fluids. “Assault by bodily fluids is a serious issue,” Harris said. “Just last month we had a guard get hit directly in the mouth with a feces-vomit cocktail.”
He called such assaults “serious health business” for the guards, and said Camp 6’s enclosed cells make it much harder for detainees to commit them.
“Camp 6 gives the detainees more privacy, a larger living space and a much better air-conditioned environment. So Camp 6 is better for the detainees, which … falls in line with our principal mission of safe and humane care and custody,” Harris said. “And at the same time, it falls into our mission of safety and securely of the Americans who work inside the wire.”
The most dangerous detainees and those who have been charged under the military commissions process are held in Camp 6, Harris said. About 100 other dangerous detainees, including those who hold the highest intelligence value, are held in Camp 5.
Two other older camps are still in use elsewhere in Guantanamo Bay. About 35 detainees are still in Camp 4, which was modeled on medium-security facilities and allows detainees communal living arrangements and more comfort items. Many more detainees were held in this camp before a riot in May resulted in more than $500,000 damage to the camp.
Because of space considerations while repairs and renovations continue on Camp 4, about 100 detainees still are held in Camp 1, which is not air conditioned and makes it easier for detainees to assault guards because of the open-mesh fencing used in the cells. “Once Camp 4 is finished -- and it should be finished this spring -- we’ll be able to offload many of the detainees in Camp 1 into Camp 4,” Harris said. “But at the end of the day, we will still have a need for Camp 1 to some degree.”
Despite the personal attacks and stressful conditions of working with dangerous enemy combatants “inside the wire,” guards there are “performing magnificently,” Harris said.
“I believe they’re doing a difficult job in a dangerous place, and they’re doing it with honor and integrity,” he said. “I think Americans who care to look into the issue would be proud of the work that … young men and women in the military and civilians that are working inside the wire (are doing) face to face with the enemy every day.”