Photos: Inside Guantanamo’s Prison

BY Larisa Epatko  July 16, 2010 at 6:19 PM EDT
A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

A guard in the U.S. prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

With the number of detainees at the U.S. naval station at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, steadily shrinking, military personnel there say the release of the prisoners is having a positive impact on those who remain.

The Obama administration has made it a goal to close the prison, though the base itself would remain open. Currently, 180 detainees are at the site. The White House has selected an alternate location — an underused state prison in Thomson, Ill., about 50 miles west of Chicago — but Congress has yet to appropriate the funds for the federal acquisition of the site.

Lt. Col. Andrew McManusDetainees who leave Guantanamo are either transferred to detention facilities in other countries or released overseas. When a prisoner leaves, the military posts a notice in a common area where other inmates can see it.

“There’s no question that that has a positive impact, because they can see that some of their fellow detainees are leaving,” said Lt. Col. Andrew McManus, deputy commander of the Joint Detention Group, which oversees operations at the detention camps.

Also improving the prisoners’ behavior is the enticement of living in the communal camps. January was the last large-scale detainee protest that involved assault, said McManus, who attributed the change to the updated benefits they receive in the compliant part of the camp.

Detainees in the compliant camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

Detainees in the compliant camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

Those benefits include being able to participate in classroom activities, such as computer training, and play video games on Playstation and Nintendo DS. The detainees also can watch television, including news channels Al Jazeera English and Kuwait 3 plus sports and nature shows, McManus said. One of their favorites is the Alaskan fishing show the “Deadliest Catch.”

Things weren’t always so rosy. In the early years of the detainees’ confinement at Guantanamo, a leaked International Committee of the Red Cross report noted potential violations of international law, including allegations of physical torture, which the Pentagon denied.

An American flag flies over the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

An American flag flies over the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Photo by Larisa Epatko

Conditions began improving in 2006, though advocacy groups such as Human Rights Watch still expressed concern over the detainees’ extended periods alone. More recently, however, there have been “massive improvements,” said the group’s Terrorism and Counterterrorism Program senior counsel Andrea Prasow.

Most of the detainees are in the communal living area and they have access to recreation areas for 20 hours a day, along with classes to learn English and Arabic, life skills and art, she said.



Listen to Guantanamo camp officer


PRISON CELL In the compliant camps, prisoners are locked in their cells from midnight to 4 a.m. but can walk around the communal areas at all other times.

PRISON CELL
In the compliant camps, prisoners are locked in their cells from midnight to 4 a.m. but can walk around the communal areas at all other times.

MEALS Detainees get three meals a day, and can choose from six menu items, for a total of 4,500 calories per day, military officials said.

MEALS
Detainees get three meals a day, and can choose from six menu items, for a total of 4,500 calories per day, military officials said.

MEALTIME The detainees get their own food and can eat together, sometimes using their prayer rugs for picnics outside.

MEALTIME
The detainees get their own food and can eat together, sometimes using their prayer rugs for picnics outside.

COMPUTER GAMES This detainee plays with a hand-held Nintendo computer game.

COMPUTER GAMES
This detainee plays with a hand-held Nintendo computer game.

COMPUTER CLASS Detainees can sign up for computer classes, along with art and resume writing.

COMPUTER CLASS
Detainees can sign up for computer classes, along with art and resume writing.

SHACKLES Shackles line the floor of a classroom at Guantanamo.

SHACKLES
Shackles line the floor of a classroom at Guantanamo.

EXERCISE MACHINES Detainees can play soccer and use exercise machines in the recreation area.

EXERCISE MACHINES
Detainees can play soccer and use exercise machines in the recreation area.

FOOSBALL The military shaved the faces off the foosball players at the request of the detainees, who thought they looked "too Western."

FOOSBALL
The military shaved the faces off the foosball players at the request of the detainees, who thought they looked “too Western.”

MEDICAL CARE Health care at Guantanamo includes a behavioral health unit, dental and other medical facilities.

MEDICAL CARE
Health care at Guantanamo includes a behavioral health unit, dental and other medical facilities.

DETAINEE HOSPITAL A detainee hospital at Camp Delta.

DETAINEE HOSPITAL
A detainee hospital at Camp Delta.

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