Tags: montana | jail | gitmo

Will Montana Jail Be The Next Gitmo?

Friday, 24 Apr 2009 03:47 PM

By Rick Pedraza

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The city council of Hardin, Mont., voted 5-0 Tuesday to "fully support" the move to bring hundreds of terror suspects currently housed at the Guantanamo detention facilities in Cuba to their newly built jail.

Since its completion in 2007, the Two Rivers Detention Center hasn’t been successful finding prisoners to send there. The city has hosted visits from several state prison officials and sent out marketing packages to all 50 states. Attempts to land contracts with Montana's Department of Corrections and the state's federal bureau of prisons also have failed.

And now the $27 million loan from revenue bonds that paid for construction of the jail is in default, the Billings Gazette reports.

Residents of the town of 3,400 think they may have an answer: why not have the city’s economic development arm, Two Rivers Authority, go after the federal government contract to hold the Guantanamo prisoners at their empty jail?

"Somebody has to stand up and put [the Guantanamo prisoners] in their backyards. It's our patriotic duty," Two Rivers executive director Greg Smith tells Canada Free Press.

"We’re offering our president an option,' Smith says. "If he wants it, we have it available. We want to step forward and say, 'Mr. President, we have a solution. How can we make it happen?'"

The 460-bed facility in Hardin – just a few hundred miles from part of the longest unprotected stretch of border anywhere in the world shared by Montana and Canada – was built to boost the town’s flailing economy. Operation of the facility was expected to provide more than 100 high-paying jobs.

Smith and the city council of Hardin say housing alleged terror suspects at Two Rivers has several advantages. Besides being a modern, empty facility, detainees would be the only prisoners in the facility. It would be easy to accommodate prisoners' "dietary, language and religious requirements," he tells Free Press.

"If someone were to escape, there aren’t any huge buildings nearby to dodge into. Montana is pretty homogenous, so detainees, many of Middle Eastern descent, would not easily blend into crowds."

Montana's Democratic senator, however, doesn’t think the city’s idea is such a good one.

"Not on my watch," U.S. Sen. Max Baucus, D-Mont., tells Associated Press, noting the detainees' presence not only would be a security risk to the community, but it would exceed the capacity of the U.S. District Court in Billings, which would have jurisdiction over their cases.

Hundreds of terror suspects, who now must be returned to their home countries or detained elsewhere, have been held at Guantanamo since it opened for business in 2002. On Jan. 22, President Barack Obama singed an executive order to close Guantanamo within a year.

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