Upstate NY: Gitmo North?

You can hide the fire, but what you gonna do with the smoke? You can close Guantanamo Bay, but what are you going to do with the prisoners? Someone’s afraid that Attica is the new Gitmo:

Chautauqua County Legislator James Caflisch, R-French Creek, sponsored a motion in recent days that would signal the legislature’s opposition to the relocation of Guantanamo Bay inmates to prisons across the state. To Caflisch, it is important that legislators be on the record when it comes to Guantanamo Bay prisoners being relocated to New York state. He believes it is a very real possibility some will be housed in prisons such as Attica Correctional Facility only 50 miles away from Silver Creek and Irving. ”There was a news report out there. … A couple congressmen or federal officials in Washington were saying Upstate New York is the perfect place to relocate Guantanamo prisoners,” Caflisch said. ”It wouldn’t be fair for New York state.”

Wondering how hard this Republican official campaigned against Guantanamo in the first place – chickens coming home to roost, anyone?

I’ve searched but haven’t been able to find any reference to the “news report” Caflisch is referring to, but at least one other observer appeared to be thinking of Upstate prisons in this British report, although in the negative:

Those found guilty face a very short life expectancy if they end up in a US prison. “You put them in a prison in upstate New York, those guys are going to get knifed in their bed the first night,” [intelligence expert] Bob Ayers added.

So, is this inconvenient problem potentially best solved by warehousing Guantanamo prisoners in the towns and villages of beautiful Upstate New York — New York City’s (and now America’s?) ever-popular human dumping ground?

Whatever the status of this horrible idea, it’s clear we don’t need toothless county legislature resolutions, but instead a regionwide discussion about this area’s economic overreliance on prisons full of Downstate inmates. This pattern has simply got to stop. Someone needs to ask Caflisch why Upstate Republicans have been so eager to house prisoners in their communities at all. Well, we all know the reasons why. But when are people and political leaders in Upstate New York going to stand up and have some self-respect in the face of the poisonous “business” of prisons? (Because frankly, I’m not too enthusiastic about the passive, “it’s none of our business” reaction of the Chautauqua County Democrats, either.)

Upstate officials can’t just turn a blind eye to Upstate prisons packed with Downstate prisoners, and then scream bloody murder at the idea that the Federal government wants to house Gitmo prisoners in their town. If you’ve got a problem with that, you’ve only set the table for that situation yourself.

Albany’s leaders refuse to deal with the ramifications of the Rockefeller drug laws which has swept up many people who may or may not be hardened criminals; and the Obama Administration can’t or won’t deal with the wider questions of why we have these un-charged Gitmo prisoners in the first place, who may or may not have committed any crimes.

This is a classic example of why all politics are local.

4 thoughts on “Upstate NY: Gitmo North?

  1. Simon St.Laurent

    Wouldn’t any prisoners be held in the Federal prison system anyway?

    The only way I can see them ending up in NYS is if New York prosecutors convicted some of them for crimes directly related to 9/11, and I somehow suspect that won’t be a local prosecution.

  2. Ellen Post author

    Yeah, I thought as I was searching for any actual reference to this idea that it would have to be federal prisons.

    Then again, the U.S. government has broken with so many other practices, traditions, customs, morals and laws regarding Gitmo, I can’t say I’d trust them to behave predictably or reasonably… Their instinct, so far, has been to obfuscate and to hide. It seems to me that this is just about some county legislator going ballistic over the whiff of an idea, but then again… Upstate has always been a great place to stash unwanted people.

  3. Josh

    I don’t believe that Guantanamo should ever have existed.

    In WWII, which I’m sure is a tired analogy in this debate, the Nuremburg trials made the US and cause of democracy and freedom stronger, but valuing and testing the principles we believe most deeply in, i.e., the due process of law.

    I don’t mind the prisoners being brought here, and tried in some modified/abbreviated form of public justice. Not the same accorded to US Citizens, but one that respects rules of evidence, habeus corpus, the right to confront accusers…etc.

  4. Phil

    The only references I have seen to where to relocate the Gitmo prisoners that will not be released is to the federal supermax prisons–like where the Unabomber and the first World Trade Center bomber are housed. I don’t really see a problem with this. The issue has always been the format and venue of trial, not housing. A very large percentage of the Gitmo prisoners will simply be released, some will be tried and sentenced to time served. The remaining are not expected to be a very large number.

    So why the fuss over Attica? Are the politicians really worried about safety of surrounding towns? The only escapes from the state system are absconders from work release programs. The detainees would most likely be held in protective custody–no contact with the general population, allowed out of cells one hour a day.

    Are they worried we wouldn’t get paid for the gig? Or are they just posturing?

    Thanks NYCO for bringing this up, we would have taken their protestations more seriously if they had said anything at all about the deprivation of rights and the use of torture at Gitmo.

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