I must admit I don’t understand the NIMBY response to transferring Guantanamo detainees to US maximum security prisons. To me it smacks more of political rigidity in an election year than common sense. The solution for me though was found while going through the top shelf of a closet in the house. While rooting around like Fibber Magee for something in its entrails, I came upon a small T-shirt belonging to my youngest son, a T-shirt that is 37 years old. On this gray shirt were the red letters that boldly proclaimed, ” Alcatraz.”
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Alcatraz, it used to be the “baddest of the bad” in the US prison system. So bad that has engendered myths and mysteries and even movies. There is no Shawshank Redemption escape from Alcatraz. Oh, one or two inmates have gone astray, but they’ve never been heard from again. The reason is geography.
Alcatraz is a rock well off the coast of San Francisco. On that rock is built a prison. Around that rock swirl some of the coldest and most vicious currents in the continental United States. Unless one were a trained distance swimmer with cold water gear (the water temperature is usually about 58 degrees, a support team and a lot of good luck, forget swimming for it. There are a number of clubs that train swimmers for what is actually only a 90 minute swim. Few in ISIS are trained swimmers and few who would be in Alcatraz would be in training shape at all. That is of course assuming one was able to break out at all. And once you hit the night water and started worrying about being swept away by the currents one also gets the night sweats about the Great White Sharks that could be in and around and under you wondering if you weren’t actually a seal.
Maybe someone would come by boat for the escape rescue. Were it a bigger boat, it would easily be seen. Were it a smaller boat the odds of handling the current and going undetected seem pretty bad. Anyone who has taken the tour boats out to Alcatraz on a rough water day knows what its like. And there are days so bad that the tours are canceled altogether. The likely scenario if the boat got to the rock, the escapee got to the boat, and the boat got away from the rock would be to head under the bridge and out to sea for boat or submarine rescue. Aside from it being a treacherous attemptfor even experienced sailors, even the most skeptical of American Homeland Security preparedness would agree that none of that would go undetected, even if one thought that ISIS might have a sub or fishing trawler at its disposal on America’s coastal Pacific.
Helicopter? Yes there have been a few successful helicopter escapes from American prisons. Again the odds of a helicopter heading undetected to Alcatraz are minimal since the waters around the Golden Gate Bridge are under constant watch. Nor would it be easy to find a place to set down where the copter wouldn’t tip over. Again the scenario of just getting off the rock is unlikely. As soon as the unauthorized copter showed up the guards would be on alert. If someone or ones were able to break out, getting across the rocky terrain to the helicopter transport without being captured, shot, or the transportation being disabled are as good as the house odds in Vegas.
And since “The Rock” is 3.2 miles off the coast of SF there are no backyards close enough for people to object having a prison in.
But you say, Congress won’t allow the use of any prisons. “Ahhhhhhhhhh,” I would reply, “Alcatraz in not just any prison. In fact, at the moment it isn’t even a prison, it’s a park.” It’s a national park and therefore under the control of the Executive Branch. One wouldn’t need Congress to do it. And since we’re back here into politics, the political make up of both the US and State delegations in California most likely would side with the President.
So we come to money. It cost in 2013 454 million dollars to maintain 91 prisoners at Guantanamo. That’s about 5 mil a prisoner. Keeping someone in prison is costs a lot, but it is really alot cheaper than Guantano by close to 98%. That money could be used to bring Alcatraz’ needs into the current century. Thus we would have a newly renovated, state of the art, maximum security prison whose name alone strikes fear into the knowledgeable , that would be in nobody’s backyard. Problem solved–at least from my perspective.