In a speech on this week, President Barack Obama reaffirmed his intention to close down Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba.
“We’ve got to close Guantanamo,” Obama said at a highly publicized press conference, before taking a moral stance. “The idea that we would still maintain forever a group of individuals that have not been tried — that needs to stop.”
However, there’s an even more basic factor: the numbers.
In a new Reuters report, the economics of the camp are laid out.
It’s pretty ugly. Here’s some unsettling figures:
- The Pentagon says the camp costs $150 million each year.
- This means the average cost for keeping inmates in Guantanamo is $903,614 (there are currently 166 inmates within the facility).
- The average cost of keeping an inmate at a maximum security prison in a super-maximum security prisons within United States borders is around $60,000 to $70,000.
- At a regular prison it’s closer to $30,000.
- Even if we take a high end of $70,000, this means the detention facility in Guantanamo is almost 13 times more expensive per inmate than U.S.-based facilities.
- If we assume that the costs have been relatively constant for the 11 years its been open, we could assume that the facility has cost around $1.6 billion.
- That could be a low figure, however. Ken Gude, chief of staff and vice president at the liberal centre for American Progress think tank estimates told Reuters has been “probably more than $2 billion.” In fact, the New York Times has reported that documents show the camp cost taxpayers “more than $2 billion” between 2002 and 2009 alone.
That’s a pretty big expenditure in an age of economic belt-tightening, and it may not get better anytime soon. General John Kelly, the head of Southern Command (the unit in charge of the detention centre) recently asked a House of Representatives panel for $170 million extra to improve facilities.
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