Guantanamo Costs $2.7 Million Per Prisoner

Keeping 166 detainees in Gitmo costs taxpayers $454 million.

gitmo wire flag

WaPo’s Max Fisher observes that the “U.S. could save millions by paying each Gitmo prisoner $2 million annual salary to do nothing.”

A new report by the Miami Herald’s Carol Rosenberg, the dean of the Guantanamo Bay media corps, estimates that the United States spends a little under half a billion dollars per year to maintain the prison facility there. That number, including troop salaries, war court costs and other fees, amounts to $454 million this year and is estimated to be slightly less next year. The data is based on Pentagon numbers that were sent to Congress and just made public.

The cost is especially striking considering that there are only 166 detainees at the facility. That comes to about $2.7 million per prisoner per year. And that estimate, Rosenberg notes, doesn’t even include one-time costs to build a $13.5 million headquarters office or ongoing costs, the details of which are classified, to maintain the “Camp 7″ lockup for some prisoners once held by the CIA. By comparison, a 2010 California government study determined that it cost the state about $47,000 to incarcerate one person for one year.

Jesse Jackson used to tout that it costs more to put a man in jail than to send him to Yale. You could get him a PhD cheaper than it costs to keep him in Gitmo, apparently.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. C. Clavin says:

    Astounding…even if it’s half that number.
    Amusing…when you consider it’s mostly (but not all) the Fiscal Hawks in the Republican party that wouldn’t allow Gitmo to be closed.
    Annoying…when taken in concert with the report the other day that the recession cost us $14T…we’re making really bad decisions about policy and governance. It’s not all on one party…but it is mostly on one party.

  2. Paul Hsieh says:

    Probably have to add a little more for the forced tube-feeding expenses on the subgroup of prisoners on hunger strike.

  3. Pinky says:

    Like the old MasterCard ads – 166 fewer terrorists running free: priceless.

  4. JohnMcC says:

    It did not seem correct, to me at least, to compare the cost/inmate at Quantanamo to that of a California state prison since the closing of Gitmo would result in most (at least) of the prisoners there being transferred to “SuperMax” federal lock-ups. So I poked at that on the google for a little bit and discovered that the US gov’t is very closed-mouth about the cost of SuperMax’s.

    “The BOP does not collect separate or specific data (on inmates) held in Administrative custody or at USP Admin Max Florence (Colorado – the 400 bed SuperMax)….Since the Federal Prisons at Florence make up a Federal Correctional Complex (which has maximum, medium and minimum security inmates) the operating costs are based on all complex operations…” So says the U.S. Bureau of Prisons in response to a FOI request in 2011. From a pdf by the anti-solitary-confinement campaign “”.

    Which is interesting and I bet is actually not true at all. They’d have to have those figures somewhere. Wonder why they’re making a frigging secret of it?

  5. JohnMcC says:

    @Pinky: According to the Washington Post (“Kafka at Gitmo” 4/25/13) there are 86 inmates at Guantanamo cleared for release. This makes the $2.7 million even more ridiculous. But since Fox didn’t report it, it doesn’t exist in your world, eh?

  6. Pinky says:

    @JohnMcC: I don’t watch Fox News. Way to make assumptions, though.

  7. Scott O says:

    @Pinky: Fox is too liberal for your tastes?

  8. JohnMcC says:

    @Pinky: I know, I know! PBS 24/7! What do I win?

  9. anjin-san says:

    @ Pinky

    I don’t watch Fox News

    So somehow that makes it ok to keep men locked up so that you will “feel safer”?

  10. Pylon says:

    Pinky, what proof is there that these men are terrorists?

  11. OzarkHillbilly says:


    Pinky, what proof is there that these men are terrorists?

    Well, they have been tried and convicted in the court of (Re)public(an) opinion.

  12. Rob in CT says:

    The idea that everyone at Gitmo is obviously a terrorist is really widespread. I remember having an argument with someone online nearly 10 years ago now about torture. He kept justifying it on the basis that these terrorists we had might have info and I kept coming back with “how, exactly, do you know that all these guys are actually terrorists” and he was actually puzzled. IT HAD NOT OCCURRED TO HIM.

    That hasn’t changed much.

  13. Franklin says:

    I imagine it’s getting close to the time when Obama should say, “I told you so.”