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.

FILED UNDER: Law and the Courts, National Security, Quick Takes, Terrorism, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. john personna says:

    It should be easy for tough guy Republicans to close Guantanamo. “Sure, bring them to Texas” etc. That would be the manly, correct, and economic thing to do.

    Of course, that would “help Obama.”

  2. Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    “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.

    The better, practical solution, proposed by the president almost immediately after taking office, was to close Gitmo and house the prisoners in American Supermax sites. And then pants-wetting congressmen, from both sides of the aisle, cravenly rejected this out of hand for reasons varying from opportunistic union-busting (federal Supermax sites are unionized, unlike for-profit prisons) to the potential of Al Qaeda’s version of the Delta Force/SEAL Team Six conducting jailbreaks at facilities in the U.S. heartland, truly bringing home the War on Terror.

    These developments should be known by a Republican aide with the House of Representatives Armed Services Committee. But I’ve noticed members of the GOP appear to have selective memories.

  3. Rafer Janders says:

    Remember last week when Doug was complaining that the federal government spent $890,000 a year total on “nothing”, i.e. maintenance fees on over a thousand bank accounts that had to be kept open for audit purposes?

    Well, this $900,000 PER POLITICAL PRISONER is truly spending on nothing.

  4. Rafer Janders says:

    I’ve just solved the phantom bank account fee problem, actually — release just one Guantanamo prisoner per year, and we can cover the cost of those accounts for decades to come.

  5. al-Ameda says:

    Why not turn the whole thing over to the Carnival Cruise people and see what that $900,000 can do?

  6. Franklin says:

    Roughly half those prisoners are completely innocent, so far as anybody can tell. Those guys might be better off with their gardens and stuff in Guantanamo.

  7. Andre Kenji says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    The better, practical solution, proposed by the president almost immediately after taking office, was to close Gitmo and house the prisoners in American Supermax sites.

    Meaning “Let´s torture these poor people in Illinois instead of torturing them in Cuba”.

  8. Caj says:

    Those people should have been tried years ago. If found guilty they pay the price, if not they should be let go. I know of three who should be in jail. Donald Rumsfeld. Dick Cheney and George Bush. All three guilty of wars crimes by invading the country of Iraq that had nothing to do with 911 and they knew it!

  9. bill says:

    @john personna: let sheriff joe have them!? he’d get beef bologna for them i bet.