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Prisons Inside Prisons Inside Prisons

Lara Jakes of The Associated Press reports that the Obama administration is studying an option to close Guantanamo: open a facility in the United States — either in Michigan or, maybe, in Leavenworth, Kans. — that would house all the Guantanamo detainees in advance of both civilian trials and military commissions. Both would occur on-site, with the Justice Department’s Bureau of Prisons running the civilian side and the Defense Department running the military side. Daphne can tell you (and me) whether that means all the federal-court trials would have to be tried in the federal jurisdictions where they’re being held.

There’s also reportedly a plan to keep that facility as a site for everyone held in preventive detention — the ones who the administration contends can be neither tried nor responsibly released.

The American Civil Liberties Union’s Jameel Jaffer comments in a statement:

“Closing Guantánamo will be an empty gesture if we just reopen it on shore under a different name. While it’s encouraging that the administration is attempting to meet the deadline for closing Guantánamo, any arrangement that allows indefinite detention without charge or trial will leave in place the problems that led President Obama to order the prison closed in the first place.

Prisoners suspected of terrorism-related crimes should be charged and tried in federal courts that adhere to the rule of law and due process. These courts have shown themselves capable of handling complex terrorism prosecutions while affording defendants the procedural protections that the Constitution requires. Given that the federal courts are fully capable of handling these prosecutions, a new system of indefinite detention without charge or trial would be not only unconstitutional but unnecessary as well.

Any system of indefinite detention without charge or trial would be inconsistent with American values and would only provoke the same legal challenges and international outcry that Guantánamo provoked. The current administration should learn from the experience of the previous one that there are no shortcuts to achieving real justice.”

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