Don't put detainees at Ft. Leavenworth

The decision to close Guantanamo Bay's detention facilities should depend on whether we can improve conditions for detainees, improve America's image and improve American security. A story from The Times, "Guantanamo closure no simple prospect," suggested Ft. Leavenworth's Disciplinary Barracks in Kansas "could work" as a location for current and future detainees. Unfortunately, the facility cannot help achieve any of the goals associated with transferring detainees out of Guantanamo Bay.

Ft. Leavenworth's Disciplinary Barracks do not provide the level of security found at Guantanamo Bay. Though it is a maximum-security facility, 80% of its inmates have some freedom of movement through the prison. In only one wing of the barracks does security meet requirements for detainees. That wing is far too small even to force-fit Guantanamo's detainees. Moreover, because the Department of Defense lacks other available maximum-security space, we would be unable to transfer military prisoners out of Ft. Leavenworth to make room for the Guantanamo detainees. Space considerations aside, Ft. Leavenworth does not have the ability to provide a self-contained operation for detainees, including a 24-hour hospital with an emergency room.

In short, it cannot provide relief from overcrowding or improve detainee services. If the goal is improved conditions for detainees, Ft. Leavenworth is not the solution.

On the subject of security, we can reasonably expect that Guantanamo Bay detainees should be secured as well as the criminals at the Federal Bureau of Prisons Administrative Maximum Facility in Colorado. Though it is a military installation, Ft. Leavenworth does not meet such standards. Its perimeter is not secure enough to encompass a detainee mission. It does not have the space to house, feed and care for the approximately 750 additional security personnel required to manage the detainee population. Also, the installation is surrounded by the city of Leavenworth, which means it is impossible to build a separate detainee facility that is sufficiently separated from the general public. If the goal is to improve American security, Ft. Leavenworth is not the solution.

Many people have suggested that ending detentions at Guantanamo Bay will improve America's image. The barracks hold several prisoners in the medium-security section who cannot be sufficiently separated from detainees. Force-fitting detainees alongside military prisoners at Ft. Leavenworth would not only violate basic incarceration policy, it would raise international legal questions about co-location. Again, if the goal is improving America's image, Ft. Leavenworth is not the solution.

Finally, we should also consider that the barracks represent the gold standard for military corrections across the armed forces. While I appreciate the Army's can-do spirit and willingness to accept any challenge, I do not believe it is fair to ask our best corrections officers to disrupt the mission they perform so well in order to take on a detainee mission that won't improve on the current situation.

People on both sides of the debate over Guantanamo Bay detentions make good-faith arguments for their respective positions. Whatever final decisions are made regarding Guantanamo Bay detainees, I hope that they are rooted in an honest assessment of the physical realities of housing and securing a detainee population. I hope that the next president and any concerned member of Congress will visit Ft. Leavenworth to make such an assessment. I am confident any visitor would conclude that the Ft. Leavenworth Disciplinary Barracks is not the best option for our detainee policy.

Sam Brownback is the senior Republican senator from Kansas.

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