New argument against closing Gitmo: Overcrowding

Conservative blogger Hugh Hewitt suggests there's no room in U.S. prisons, but that's never stopped us before

By Alex Koppelman
Published May 22, 2009 8:30PM (EDT)

Sure, conservative radio host and blogger Hugh Hewitt is so obviously -- and often, desperately -- partisan that Andrew Sullivan actually named one of his blogger awards for him. But sometimes Hewitt's attempts to score points for his cause are so transparent, so naive, as to be almost endearing.

Thursday afternoon, in response to the what he interpreted as President Obama's suggestion that some detainees currently held at Guantanamo Bay could be moved to a supermax facility in Colorado, Hewitt wrote:

BTW: Supermax holds 490, and there are already more than 400 inmates. So even if the whole Gitmo gang goes to Colorado, where do they put the Unabomber's buddies who have to move on?

How cute -- someone who actually thinks that in the U.S., when our prisons hit capacity we stop filling them.

In fact, according to the most recent year-end summary of federal prison statistics, compiled by the Department of Justice for 2007, federal prisons were running at 136 percent of capacity. By that standard, there's plenty of room in Colorado for the prisoners now at Guantanamo. There are about 250 currently held there, and many of them have already been approved for release. And if Colorado's facility -- which, according to the Web site where Hewitt got his data, is home to 404 inmates -- is just brought up to the federal average, it would hold 666 prisoners. (I'm not advocating overcrowding here, there are a lot of negative consequences to the practice, just trying to introduce some reality to the discussion.)

Hewitt also wrote, "And what do the guards and staff of Supermax (and their families) think about being ground zero for Islamist fanatics in the U.S.?"

I don't know -- what do they think about supervising gang leaders, members of the Aryan Nation, and other killers of all stripes?

Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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