Posted by: Inside-Out Peace | May 21, 2009

Recidivism Among Released Guantanamo Detainees

In today’s New York Times, Elisabeth Bumiller reports that “one in seven of the 534 prisoners already transferred abroad from the detention center in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, has returned to terrorism or militant activity […].”  That is about 14%.  No doubt many people will conclude, based on no more information than that contained in the article’s headline, that the US must keep its remaining 240 prisoners confined indefinitely. 

What strikes me, though, is that this is so much higher than the recidivism rate for those released from programs such as those described in my post “Terrorist Rehabilitation in Saudi Arabia“.  What we should be doing is imitating these methods of dealing with these people, which have been far more successful in preventing them from returning to terrorist activity.  We have, actually, already done so in one facility in Iraq, which reports a recidivism rate of less than 1%!   So, it is a mystery to me why the approach has not also been applied to the facility in Guantanamo.  The acts for which the people were detained in Iraq were no different from those in Guantanamo. 

So, what is this miraculous cure for terrorism?  Education, and genuine human concern for the prisoners’ well-being both during and after their imprisonment.  We sure didn’t provide that to those who were at Guantanamo, and that is the reason for the difference in recidivism rates.  Let’s do what works.


Here is what life has been like for five detainees who have each spent over six years at Guantanamo, and who were brought there while still juveniles.

Click here to see photos of the Guantanamo facility.


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