Guantanamo Costs $900,000 Per Inmate
Maintaining the prison at Guantanamo Bay is pretty expensive:
(Reuters) – 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 also 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.
The main reason for the the high costs, of course, is where the prison is located:
The huge cost of running the prison and judicial complex stem from its offshore location at a 45-square-mile U.S. Naval Base on the southeastern coast of Cuba. Because ties between the two countries are almost nonexistent, almost everything for the facilities has to be ferried in from outside.
When the military tribunals are in session, everyone from judges and lawyers to observers and media have to fly into Guantanamo on military aircraft. Food, construction materials and other goods are shipped in from outside, experts say.
But despite the high cost of the camp, and despite the fact that Republicans traditionally demand belt-tightening by the federal government, a Republican aide with the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee said there was little point in asking if the price was worth it because “there isn’t an alternative at the moment.”
“No one has any particular affection for Guantanamo Bay, but no one has come up with a practical solution that’s better,” the aide said.
That’s really the big problem here, of course, and as long as that’s the case it seems pretty clear that Guantanamo will stay open.