In 2009, President Obama tried to close the Guantanamo Bay detention facility (Gitmo) and transfer prisoners Stateside, some of them to southern Colorado’s so-called Supermax prison. Congress, including most of Colorado’s delegation — Democrat and Republican — said no and the proposal withered.
Now, in 2015, the idea is again in the air, and Supermax is again under consideration.
Colorado’s Congressional delegation has changed a bit since 2009, but its tune hasn’t. Sen’s. Cory Gardner (R) and Michael Bennet (D) cite existing law that prohibits such a move, and Gardner also worries about Coloradans’ safety, as does Rep. Doug Lamborn (R): The people of Colorado do not want the world’s worst terrorists housed in our own back yard.
Hello!? The world’s worst already are. In Supermax! For the home team, there’s: Vincent Basciano, Mafioso; Larry Hoover, gang-leader; Theodore Kaczynski, Unabomber. The visiting team features: Ramzi Yousef, mastermind of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing; Zacarias Moussaoui, 9/11 conspirator; Faisal Shahzad, Times Square might-have-been bomber.
Honestly now, are these nasties likely to make it out of what is fondly known as The Alcatraz of the Rockies and into our literal back yards? So far, no one has, or has even tried.
But what if a Gitmo alumnus did try to escape?
First, he’d have to get through a phalanx of hi-tech sensors, race past vicious attack dogs and armed guards, scale a wall that an Olympic pole-vaulter would quail at, only to face razor wire so sharp it could get a full scholarship to Harvard.
Then, if, by some miracle, he makes it out, his problems have only begun. If he is wise, he has escaped in the wee morning hours. Soon, dawn is touching the eastern sky and it is time for the day’s first prayer. He may be on the run, but he still must satisfy his religious obligations. After all, if he conveniently neglects the faith that justifies his chosen vocation, he might as well be a Unitarian.
Before he can pray, however, he must do his ablutions, which requires clean water. There are houses, but it’s not a good time to knock. The Arkansas River is nearby and mountain-clear, but he might want to avoid its vicious rapids that kill scores of rafters each year.
Somehow, he manages to ritually cleanse himself. To pray, he must face Mecca, but where is it? There aren’t any road signs and he can’t ask. He knows he’s in the western U.S., and Mecca must be sort of easterly, where — Allahu Akbar — the lightening sky seems to point the way … sort of. But sort of isn’t sufficient. Oh, the shame if he gets it wrong and prays toward Nashville or New York City!
Even if he actually gets it right, he has lost precious time and knows that he will lose more, since there are four more obligatory prayers today … and tomorrow … and … Pressure is mounting, but where is he to run? If he’s smart, he scrambles out of Florence, Supermax’s hometown. If he’s lucky, he avoids Canon City to the west and Pueblo to the east and heads southwest toward the mountains — the Sangre de Cristo (the irony of his finding shelter in the Blood of Christ will, sadly, be lost on him).
His choice, however, does have its downside. The area is very dangerous. There are rattlesnakes, bears, and mountain lions. But, far more deadly, there are guns. He is walking straight into the heart and soul of NRA country, where every pickup has a shotgun rack and every hip a holster. Imagine the humiliation of a world-class terrorist being taken down by a mom packing heat or by a teenager, hunting squirrels with his .22.
All told, we have little to fear from hosting a few unpleasant visitors. Indeed, if common sense prevailed, the NIMBY/IMBY debate would focus on what really counts — $$. Supermax has been an economic boon to its hometown, and the arrangements to house this new group would bring more money.
Prisoning may, as the mayor observed when the Gitmo issue came up six years ago, be a recession-proof industry, but best not to take any chances.