by Pa Rock
Shortly after taking office President Obama made a necessary and long overdue decision to close the “Detention” Facility at the Guantanamo Naval Station on Cuba. Many of the inmates who were in for no specific crimes other than being suspicious characters in somebody’s opinion have already been released and sent home. Others are more problematic and difficult to deal with. Supposedly some will be in danger if they are sent back to their home countries, and others may truly be dangerous. All in all, our government has about two-hundred-and-fifty “hot potatoes” sitting in holding cells at Gitmo who will have to be housed somewhere, at least for the time being.
The detainee population is a result of political and military decisions made in the United States, and consequently it is the United States that will have to deal with it. American politicians are already grandstanding about the “imminent dangers” imposed by this population and making loud demands that they not be shipped into their districts or states. Politicians know that this jingoistic noise plays well with voters. Just this week, for example, Virginia Republicans announced their opposition to Gitmo’s former residents being sent there (though apparently no one has suggested it), and challenged their Democratic Governor to join them in keeping the detainees at bay.
But the sad truth is that if they can’t be deported or released, those alleged terrorists will have to be housed somewhere. Selecting a location for their incarceration will be as controversial as figuring out where to store nuclear waste or deciding which military bases to close. Everybody will be quick to point someplace else.
I have three (very good) recommendations on where to transfer this problematic population. Each is a place where I have resided and about which I have a good deal of firsthand knowledge. They are listed below in reverse order (a la David Letterman):
The third best place to build a new, state-of-the-art prison for detainees with numerous good jobs for the local population would be anywhere in the state of Arizona. Arizona is home to many private prisons that contract out to other states to house their inmates. It is practically impossible to drive any distance in this state without passing a nice prison facility sitting out in the desert among the cacti and sage brush. I haven’t heard of any escapes – a fleeing felon would have to deal with extreme temperatures, scorpions, rattlesnakes, coyotes (two-legged and four-legged), and the odd Border Patrol agent.
The second best place to build a new, state-of-the-art prison for detainees with numerous good jobs for the local population would be Leavenworth, Kansas. Leavenworth (city and county) has long prospered on a prison economy. It is home to four major penal institutions: the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Ft. Leavenworth, the Federal Penitentiary, Kansas State Prison for Men, and Kansas State Prison for Women. Most local families have members who either are or have been employed in the prison industry, and, whether they admit it or not, local residents have come to accept the realities of penal institutions in their midst. A new prison would not have nearly the emotional impact on Leavenworth as it would in other communities.
And (drum roll, please)…
The very best place to build a new, state-of-the-art prison for detainees with numerous good jobs for the local population would be McDonald County, Missouri. Although McDonald County borders Benton County, Arkansas (the home to Wal-Mart, Tyson Foods, and Jones Truck Lines), it shares none of the wealth that has been slathered upon its Arkansas neighbor. The economic base of McDonald County is poultry processing and a scant bit of tourism, and the “best” jobs are teaching, postal, and working at the welfare office. (I am a veteran of all three and know that of which I type.) Land is still affordable, remote locations are abundant, and taxes are virtually non-existent.
And if none of the above work out, ship those rascals off to Crawford, Texas!