It’s been dubbed the most expensive prison on Earth and President Barack Obama cited the cost this week as one of many reasons to shut down the detention center at Guantanamo Bay, which burns through some $900,000 per prisoner annually.
The Pentagon estimates it spends about $150 million each year to operate the prison and military court system at the U.S. Naval Base in Cuba, which was set up 11 years ago to house foreign terrorism suspects.
With 166 inmates currently in custody, that amounts to an annual cost of $903,614 per prisoner.
By comparison, super-maximum security prisons in the United States spend about $60,000 to $70,000 at most to house their inmates, analysts say.
And the average cost across all federal prisons is about $30,000, they say.
The high cost was just one reason Obama cited when he returned this week to an unfulfilled promise to close the prison and said he would try again.
Obama…said that the prison, set up under his Republican predecessor George W. Bush and long the target of criticism by rights groups and foreign governments, is a stain on the reputation of the United States.
‘It’s extremely inefficient,’ said Ken Gude, chief of staff and vice president at the liberal Center for American Progress think tank, who has followed developments at Guantanamo Bay since 2005.
‘That … may be what finally gets us to actually close the prison. I mean the costs are astronomical, when you compare them to what it would cost to detain somebody in the United States,’ Gude said…
Obama pledged to close the prison within a year after first taking office in January 2009 but his efforts ran aground, partly because of congressional opposition, from both Republicans and some in his own Democratic Party, to transferring prisoners to the United States.
Inmates started a hunger strike in February that has swelled to some 100 prisoners and has led to force-feeding of 23 of the prisoners.
With the camp back under a critical spotlight, Obama told a news conference on Tuesday he would renew efforts to shut it down. He has an array of options, some of which would be more achievable than others…
Above the annual operating cost, capital spending on the prison could rise again if the Pentagon receives the funding it says it needs to renovate the place.
General John Kelly, the head of Southern Command, which is responsible for Guantanamo, told a House of Representatives panel in March that he needed some $170 million to improve the facilities for troops stationed at the base as part of detention operations.
Kelly said the living conditions were ‘pretty questionable’ and told the panel, ‘We need to take care of our troops.’
Or we could act like we have functional brains – put the convicted into mainland supermax prisons, send the unconvictable, unindicted back to their home countries or a helpful surrogate country and go back to at least a pretense of being a law-abiding civilized nation. Close down Gitmo and give the land back to the Cubans.