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Daveed Gartenstein-Ross on the Future of Preventive Detention

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Thursday, December 13, 2012 at 5:43 AM

Daveed Gartenstein-Ross of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has a chapter in this new book, entitled “The Future of Preventive Detention Under International Law” (see pp. 257-266). The larger book, The Law of the Future and the Future of Law: Volume II, is of only occasional relevance to Lawfare readers, though many of the chapters seem interesting in their own right. But the chapter by Gartenstein-Ross, who also runs a useful Twitter feed and blogs over at Gunpowder and Lead, in addition to citing my own work very generously, has some interesting field research from Guantanamo Bay that many readers may find valuable. For example:

In May 2006, detainees had mounted a surprise attack on guards in Gitmo’s Camp Four, which featured communal living. One detainee appeared to be attempting suicide, and when guards rushed in to thwart the attempt, they were ambushed by inmates wielding fan blades and broken light fixtures as weapons. The following month, three detainees did commit suicide by hanging themselves with nooses comprised of sheets and clothing.

The changes in the intervening six years have been significant. Detainees can be divided into those whose behaviour is generally compliant with the rules, and those who are non-compliant. In 2006, about 80 per cent of detainees were non-compliant, a percentage that has basically reversed since then. Several independent interviews with Gitmo officials established that compliance rates at Camps Five and Six, the two remaining camps for conventional detainees, were now about 80 per cent (those dubbed “high-value detainees” are kept in Camp Seven, which is off limits to the media). The increase in compliance rates can be seen by detainees’ living patterns. Today, Camp Six, which is modelled on a prison in Lenawee County, Michigan, is entirely comprised of communal living, while Camp Five, modelled on a prison in Terre Haute, Indiana, features both single-cell detention and also a communal wing. 80 per cent of detainees are held in communal living areas, which is seen as a reward for compliant behaviour.

I spoke at length with Zak, a senior cultural adviser of Jordanian origin at the detention facilities. He thought that much of the change in compliance was because detainees had been given a different incentive structure. “By listening to the detainees over the years, we have managed to understand how to give them something valuable”, he said. When Zak first arrived in 2005, detainees were perhaps given one hour of recreation out of their cells; now they have 20 hours of access per day to the recreation yard at Camp Six. In addition to outdoor time, those in communal living facilities are given 24 hours a day of free movement within the block where they live (see Figure 1, illustrating communal living facilities in Camp Six).

Detainees have been given access to television, allowed to watch 20 different stations. Their library contains over 30,000 books; and they are provided with educational classes that include language classes, personal health and wellness, computer classes, art classes, and, most quixotically, courses on job interviews and resume writing. From Zak’s perspective, expanding detainees’ freedom of choice has been critical to increasing their compliance. “They want to go to class, we give them class”, he said.

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