Cost of housing prisoners at Guantanamo revised upwards

Miami HeraldSeptember 13, 2010 

A Bureau of Prisons spokesman on Monday revised upwards the cost of housing a captive in federal detention, days after the bureau said it spends a tiny fraction of what the military spends at Guantanamo Bay.

The new figure -- $27,251 a year per federal prisoner compared to $650,000 per captive at the U.S. base in Cuba -- is still a tiny fraction.

``Obviously we're far less expensive than what the military is doing,'' said Bureau of Prisons spokesman Edmond Ross.

The per prisoner cost has exceeded $25,000 for several years now in the federal system, he said. It was unclear how a colleague arrived Friday at $5,750 a year, he said.

The Pentagon spends $116 million a year to run the sprawling prison camps complex in southeast Cuba, which now holds 176 war-on-terror captives -- most in collective compound style housing. That's in part because the Pentagon has to house, feed and entertain about 2,000 extra U.S. troops and contractors who work at the prison camps.

Costs came up on Friday when President Barack Obama conceded that domestic politics had so far stymied his campaign pledge to close the controversial camps.

Then he made another pitch to move the prisoners to U.S. soil, calling the cost of Guantanamo ``massively higher'' than ``a Supermax, maximum security prison here in the United States.''

Ross also said Monday there had been no movement in the Bureau of Prisons efforts to buy two state prisons in Thomson, Ill., and Standish, Mich., sites the White House considered as potential stateside substitutes for the Guantanamo camps.

Congress, which has yet to fund the purchase, has systematically used its purse strings to block the effort.

``What trumps all that is the political ramifications, obviously,'' Ross said.

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