Will Guantanamo Detainees Go To Colorado?
MICHELE NORRIS, Host:
If Guantanamo detainees are imprisoned in this country, it's entirely likely some would be sent to the U.S. Penitentiary Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, Colorado - also known as Supermax. It opened in 1994. It has 490 beds. It already houses a number of international terrorists, including Ramzi Yusuf, convicted of the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. Also in Florence, Zacarias Moussaoui, convicted of conspiring in the 9/11 attacks, and Ahmed Ressam, convicted in the airport millennium plot.
To find out how people in Florence, Colorado, are reacting to news that their prison population might grow to include Guantanamo detainees, we called Bob Wood. He's publisher of the Florence Citizen. His newspaper was active in helping bring Supermax to Florence, and he says the prison is good for the local economy.
NORRIS: Well, Fremont County is kind of the center of the prison industry in the state of Colorado. We have seven state prisons here already at that time, and there have been more built since then. So we're used to having prison jobs in the community. So when the opportunity came for the federal prison, we looked at jobs. We looked at a number of influences that that could bring to the community.
NORRIS: Well, what about now, with this idea that Guantanamo detainees might also be moved to Florence. What are you hearing from people? Any shades of not- in-my-backyard there in Florence?
NORRIS: I'm sure there's some who do not want them to come here. But by and large, the community pretty much feels that the staff is adequate, the facility is adequate, and I don't think that there's a lot of fear associated with that. If you've been inside that facility, you can see how difficult it would be for someone to conduct any kind of terrorist activity from that facility.
NORRIS: You've been inside yourself.
NORRIS: Yes, I have.
NORRIS: What's it like?
NORRIS: It seems to be pretty much all underground. The cells are small, but they're all concrete. There's a very narrow slit with a window to the outside that nobody could squeeze through. It seems to be a very secure facility.
NORRIS: And the inmates in the Supermax part are, I believe, in solitary confinement 23 hours a day, something like that?
NORRIS: I believe so. I know it's substantial.
NORRIS: Are you getting any letters to the paper talking about this right now?
NORRIS: No. I don't even hear people discussing it on the street unless it happens to come up on a news broadcast or something. But I think by and large, it's just a routine matter for the community.
NORRIS: Just a big shrug there in Florence, Colorado.
NORRIS: Pretty much. Mm-hmm.
NORRIS: You do hear this, too, Mr. Wood, that apart from security within the prison itself, there are fears being expressed that whatever site or sites are chosen, that that place could become a target for an outside terrorist attack. Are you worried about that?
NORRIS: We've discussed that some, among the community. But it just doesn't seem to be a real issue because I don't think a small town like this, somebody causing a problem at the post office or whatever - which is the only other federal facility here - probably isn't going to generate a lot of that sort of activity.
NORRIS: Not really something that keeps you up at night.
NORRIS: No. This is a community where a lot of people don't even lock their doors at night, even with the prison facilities here.
NORRIS: Huh. Well, Mr. Wood, what's your message to the folks in Washington and elsewhere who are making these decisions right now?
NORRIS: Well, having talked with some of the wardens and some of the other employees at the prison, I think if this is where they need to be, bring them on. I think that our community is ready to take care of them, and I think they'll do a good job of it.
NORRIS: Well, Mr. Wood, good to talk to you. Thanks very much.
NORRIS: Thank you.
NORRIS: Bob Wood is publisher of the Florence Citizen. By the way, we also called the mayor of Florence, Colorado, Bart Hall, who told us this: Florence is used to having very bad boys at the Supermax. We weren't expecting it to house a bunch of kindergarteners.
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