Take the Constitutional Quiz Take the Constitutional Quiz

Silly MathThis won’t take long. Either I’m crazy or some or all of the folks in Washington, D.C. are. (Even if it’s me, it’s certainly them too!)

Obama has been promising for years (since when he was first elected in 2009) to close the prison at Guantanamo Bay. Why, I ask? “It’s outdated and expensive,” he answers. And it provides an excuse for terrorists to declare Jihad on America.”

Let’s take the Jihad business first. Does anyone really believe that if we move the 100 or so prisoners still at Guantanamo Bay today (down from a high of around 800) to a new prison facility in the United States, ISIS or Al-Qaeda will say “Oh, never mind.” When we handed Iran $150 billion in connection with the nuclear agreement with Iran (the conditions under which Iran has yet to perform), did their Jihadists say “Oh, never mind”? All moving those 100 prisoners to the U.S. will do is give ISIS added incentive to implement an attack on mainland U.S. soil to break them out, if they don’t break lose on their own. Where would we house them in the U.S.? Down the street from where you live? I for one would rather see us fight any such fights at our remote GTMO facility in the modestly populated remote southeast coast of Cuba.

This brings us back to the question of cost. It’s estimated that it costs between $100 million and $150 million per year–or about $1million to $1.5 million per detainee per year–to keep them at GTMO. In contrast, the average cost per domestic prisoner in the U.S. is less than one-tenth of that. What explains this astronomical cost? For starters, with a lack of cooperation from Cuba, all food, water, and other supplies have to be shipped or flown to Guantanamo Bay. Legal counsel and proceedings for the various detainees requires lawyers and the like to be flown in. And we know what lawyers charge, door to door!

Clearly, this is not ideal. But what are the alternatives? The Pentagon just estimated $500 million to come up with a new stateside replacement facility. Based on unreliable government batting averages, cost overruns would probably bring that to more than $1 billion. That’s untenable. Just as it’s untenable to locate these detainees anywhere near American civilians. Most of our States don’t want a few Syrian refugees. They’re not likely to welcome these detainees with open arms. Especially, when the Administration says they are too dangerous to fly them back to their homes and turn them loose.

Note: If we spread the GTMO guests out in high security prisons around the country, the ones that house our most hardened American criminals, the problem might take care of itself. 🙂 (Yes, dear, I’m just kidding. Lighten up.)

So, what to do? Are we just “stuck,” which seems to all the folks in D.C. can come up with so far. No surprise there.

How about this? Find some hungry third world nation that needs some money and some jobs, construct your basic, no frills tilt up concrete facility of about 35,000 square feet (100 square foot cells per detainee and another 250 square feet of common area facilities per detainee, offices, medical facilities, guard housing, etc.) At $50 per square feet, that comes to, $1,750,000. Add some miscellaneous to the budget (you know, for large screen television sets, basketball courts, Jacuzzis, etc.), and call it an even $2 million. Don’t forget the land, say about ten acres. Let’s be generous. Figure $10,000 per acre, or about $100,000. And we need some infrastructure, a few roads in and out, water lines and utilities. In a third world nation, where labor is cheap and we’re not building a five-star resort, another couple million ought to be plenty. With additional reserves, let’s figure $5 million, “all in.”

How does that compare to the Pentagon’s $500 million estimate?

And the cost of operation per year in a cooperating country happy to create jobs? Can’t be more than the $100,000 per year we pay per prisoner in U.S. prisons whose guards and other employees are all union organized. So, that’s a wash with putting our guests somewhere on mainland United States.

Oh, wait a minute. I forgot about all of those lawyers, judges and retired judges. We’re still going to have to fly them half way around the world, and house and feed them. Really? Why? Haven’t they heard of FaceTime iPhones and GoToMyPC apps? Corporate America has used technology to dramatically reduce travel and hotel costs. If it works for them, why not for these detainees. Do you know of anything in our Constitution that requires lawyers and judges within arm’s reach (risky as that might me)? I can’t see why shouting distance isn’t good enough.

Okay, so I’m being a bit tongue in cheek and no doubt overlooking some points here and there. But you get my point. We don’t need to turn these people loose. We don’t need to house them on mainland U.S.A. And we don’t have to spend $500 million to build them some fancy resort or continue paying $100 million per year to keep them comfortable.

And here’s another thought when we’re looking for the right third world nation. How about Cuba? Can’t they use some jobs? We already own GTMO; we can just give it to the Cubans. Now that we’re in a mutual admiration society with Cuba, why don’t we just sub out the job to the Cubans? Wouldn’t they take it on for the same $100,000 per detainee per year that it costs us in the U.S.? That’s $10 million per year and a bunch of jobs. Why not? And when our guests are . . . depleted, the Cubans can just turn the place into a seaside resort for the wealthy. More revenue, and more jobs, for Cuba.

Like I said, either I’m crazy or the folks in D.C. are. Or we both are. But, at a minimum, they are. Seems like we’ve let one set of inmates run wild in the course of making sure that another set of inmates don’t.

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  • Larry Lugash

    For years now I’ve been advocating, to anyone who would listen, the housing of Mexican prisoners across the border. The same logic applies. Jobs for Mexicans and a hell of a lot cheaper for us.

    I wonder if the figures bandied about on housing these prisoners at GTMO is in addition to the cost of operating the facility or did they just throw in the total cost to make it sound more expensive.

    • Thanks for visiting, Larry. It does seem to me that the same logic applies to illegal immigrants from Mexico in prison here in the U.S. Further, if outside of our prisons they should be vulnerable to deportation, then why should they be any less subject to deportation (albeit incarcerated) just because they are in our prisons? Imprisonment should not be a barrier to deportation.
      As for the figures bandied about, I do believe they are all inclusive, but I think that’s legitimate if we would not otherwise be operating the facility, which I understand to be the case. Just like a home the value of which exceeds the debt against it, it’s cheaper, and smarter, to walk away.

  • Jane S Taber

    To start our financing … Let Obama pay back to the taxpayer all his vacation cost.
    I’d really like to see that … Wishful thinking.

    The nuts have been running the asylum for some time now.

    • I think our commander-in-entitlement-handouts-to-buy-votes simply believes he has to set a good example, and that charity begins at home! As for the nuts running the asylum, great minds think a like. See my pending blog coming this Thursday, although perhaps being a bit more stodgy, I chose to use “lunatics” rather than “nuts.” 🙂

  • Larry Lugash

    Yes, it’s often cheaper to walk away but in this case we do have a naval base there that I would think is in our strategic interest not to do so.

    • My assumption in saying what I did in my reply to your earlier post in response to this blog is that this naval base has outlived it’s value as a naval base. If my assumption is incorrect, then my reply to you might not be sound, i.e., including the underlying operating cost may be more a political statement, as you suggest, than a financial one. I don’t really know the answer to your question, but your question is certainly a salient one.

  • Andy Pritikin

    Ron, although I completely agree with the relocation of the GTMO “guests” to the US soil as an undesirable solution and to leave them in Cuba would be great along with the base. The issue I see is actually trusting a foreign government to keep them in custody. I can easily see ISIS or whoever bribing a number of government officials, prison guards, generals and the like with millions of dollars for them to just “leave the doors unlocked, and we will do the rest. No one will get hurt.” And then a massive prison break ensues. Would a Cuban prison guard or military personnel be willing to give their lives to protect these guys from escaping? Even if they did not use the bribery tactic, they can stage a military operation to “rescue” them. This would work wonders for their social media programs. Just some thoughts. Now, discuss…

    • Hi Andy, Thanks for joining in! You bring up a great point, one for which I should, but failed, to budget. You are absolutely right. We cannot trust a foreign government to be impervious to bribes or attacks. So, we have to factor in the cost of U.S. military or other personnel to provide additional security to supervise foreign security. Note that I allowed for guard housing in my financial analysis. We’ll now make it a bit bigger. That’ll add something to construction costs. We’ll also have to raise my personnel costs. So, how many U.S. security people do we need to add for 100 terrorist prisoners? Let’s be generous and add 25, one for every four prisoners, not because we need that kind of ratio, but because we don’t want anymore Benghazis on our hands. That will add, say, $60,000 more to our construction costs, including another acre of land, and about $2.5 million per year in U.S. payroll, direct and indirect. The $60,000 is financially de minimis. But we were at $5 million in my pro forma versus $500 million in the U.S. government’s pro forma. Twenty years of payroll would be $50 million, plus some inflation.The point is that this is still very attractive compared to the government’s estimates. The greatest concern I have about your good catch is that the foreign facility is an “attractive nuisance” for terrorists to target. That said, I have two concluding observations. First, there have been no attacks on GTMO, presumably because the security is intimidating. Thanks to you, the same will be true with what I’m suggesting. Second, I’ll go out on a limb: The current world condition is not going to last another twenty years. One side or the other is going to win and the other side isn’t still going to be around. So, my $50 million add on for payroll is probably on the high side. I think the premise still has wings, but your scrutiny definitely put it to the test and improved it. Come back again!