Sorry Obama, the Supermax is full

As President Obama noted in his Guantanamo speech yesterday,”Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.”    This may be true, but unfortunately, they may not have room for the Gitmo detainees. The Denver Post reports that Colorado’s 480-cell supermax, already home to notable terrorists like  ...

By , a former associate editor at Foreign Policy.
585600_090522_supermax2.jpg
585600_090522_supermax2.jpg
FLORENCE, UNITED STATES: (FILES) This 02 February, 1995, file photo shows the super-maximum-security federal prison in Florence, Colorado. Al-Qaeda plotter Zacarias Moussaoui is now headed for the fortress-like super-prison, notoriously dubbed the "Alcatraz of the Rockies, where a clutch of other terror convicts are also ending their days. The 37-year-old Frenchman would find himself banged up in solitary confinement in the facility that houses 399 other prisoners, including British 'shoe bomber' Richard Reid, blind Egyptian Muslim cleric Omar Abdel-Rahman, jailed for conspiracy after the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, and Ramzi Youssef, also implicated in the 1993 plot. "Supermax", about 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Denver, is tightly controlled, technologically advanced and designed to be impossible to escape. AFP PHOTO/BOB DAEMMRICH/FILES (Photo credit should read BOB DAEMMRICH/AFP/Getty Images)

As President Obama noted in his Guantanamo speech yesterday,"Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists." 

 

As President Obama noted in his Guantanamo speech yesterday,”Nobody has ever escaped from one of our federal, supermax prisons, which hold hundreds of convicted terrorists.” 

 

This may be true, but unfortunately, they may not have room for the Gitmo detainees. The Denver Post reports that Colorado’s 480-cell supermax, already home to notable terrorists like  9/11 conspirator Zacharias Massoui, the 1993 World Trade Center planner Ramzi Youssef, “shoe bomber” Richard Reid, and unabomber Ted Kaczinski, is just about out of room:

Only one bed was not filled Thursday at Supermax, U.S. Bureau of Prisons spokeswoman Tracy Billingsley said.

So getting any more than a handful of detainees from Guantanamo to Florence would require considerable logistical maneuvers to clear room or an even longer-term solution through prison expansion.The first step, according to the head of the union representing correctional officers, would be to increase staffing at Supermax.

“There’s a whole contingent of issues that have to be well thought out before we ever agreed to bring inmates of that caliber into our system,” said Bryan Lowry, president of the National Council of Prison Locals, which represents federal correctional officers.

“These inmates that are in there now are some of the most dangerous inmates in the nation. I don’t know how you move them out just to move inmates from Guantanamo in. Alternatives have got to be explored.”

The Colorado supermax is only used for very worst offenders, often those who have killed fellow inmates at other facilities. Prisoners are kept in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day. The fact that this prison is now overcrowded is a pretty sad state of affairs. 

To his credit, the mayor of Florence, Colorado, where the supermax is located seemed pretty unfazed by all the congressional scaremongering about “bringing hardened terrorists within our borders.”

“Most of us own guns,” he said.

Hat tip:
On Deadline

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Twitter: @joshuakeating

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