Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Is The Prison Half-Full or Half-Empty?

So, folks are reporting that 30% of released Guantanamo inmates are returning to a life of terrorism. Is this good news or bad?  People make it seem like bad news, but I look at the prison and think it is half full?  Given that Gitmo does not seem to be a place where much effort when into turning the prisoners into model people, why should we expect that those who faced significant stress while in our guest villas in Cuba would then go home and become tax collectors or boy scout leaders?

Indeed, this news almost suggests that the US had caught the right folks, something that is never guaranteed.  Of course, one could counter that by suggesting that innocent people could be turned into terrorists after experiencing a place like Guantanamo and the enhanced interrogation procedures (torture). 

So, I return to my original thought--if only thirty percent of these guys or so return to terrorism, that is a lower recidivism rate than I would have expected and signficantly lower than the average rate of recidivism in the US, which is something like 60% (H/T to Dan Murphy @bungdan).   I am ont suggesting that Gitmo worked in the sense that these guys are actually less likely to engage in terrorism because of their treatment at Gitmo (I would guess we will be raising the percentage over time as we learn about more cases of recidivism).  Just that we should not be surprised when these folks return to the use of violence. 

I don't think we should have anything but the lowest expectations for Gitmo--that it worked out quite poorly.  So, recidivism?  Not a surprise.

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