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Inside Gitmo: A radical change for detainees

Posted at 8:29 PM, Feb 04, 2016
It’s one of the most secure places in the world, on an island in the Caribbean. 
 
The area is a tropical paradise for some, an indefinite prison for others. 
 
In the detainee facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, ground rules for the media are strict; no pictures of the hundreds of security cameras, no pictures of locks or sally ports opening, active guard towers and the faces of detainees and their keepers are all off limits.
When many of us think about the facility commonly known as Gitmo, we imagine men in chain-link cages wearing orange jump suits. That image is far from the current truth. Now they’re surrounded by a huge concrete structure with steel doors and skylights. 
 
The cells for the detainees are like any modern prison in the United States. Camp VI, where most of the detainees live, is modeled after a prison in Michigan. The cells have metal beds with blue mats, sinks with running water and toilets. Detainees are given personal items such as clothes, religious books and personal hygiene supplies. 
 
In the common areas, there are stainless steel benches and chairs bolted to the concrete floor. TV’s are kept in Plexiglas and steel boxes about 15 feet above the ground.
 
Guards keep eyes on the detainees 24/7 through one-way glass. Delivering them food on large, wheeled carts left in a fenced for the detainees to help themselves. The food delivered is what they’ve requested to eat for the day. They’re also able to request food items in advance.
 
“Twice a month they’re able to write on a piece of paper we give them different food items that they would like,” the Master Sergeant in charge of the facility said.
 
The detainees in Camp VI are called Highly Compliant. They’re given 22 hours every day to roam in the living area and an attached courtyard. They’re locked down for only two hours a day for maintenance and security checks.
 
Camp VI opened in 2006 and is a stark contrast to earlier facilities at Guantanamo Bay.
 
Camp Delta looked more like a dog kennel than a high tech prison. It was built in 2002 and at one point held about 600 detainees. Now, there are none. 
 
Delta now holds the detainee medical facility with a pharmacy, intensive care unit and radiology center. Doctors and mental health providers are available 24/7 for medical issues large and small.
 
“To include optometry, dental care, we do provide that here at the detention medical clinic, as well as at the camp,” the Senior Medical Officer said.
 
Camp Delta also holds the detainee library. It’s a trailer with 35,000 items. There are books, magazines, movies and video games. The Librarian is an Army Captain.
 
“We box up a selection from our library here, things the detainees may have requested, things we think they may be interested in and take them into the camps weekly,” the librarian said.
 
Each detainee is given a portable DVD player. Newspapers are also delivered to the detainees. 
 
The most popular items are religious books.  A close second is National Geographic. 
 
The librarian says Harry Potter has been popular lately as well as soccer video games for Play Station 3.
 
Detainees are also offered art, computer and science classes.