Controversy

Do Gitmo detainees deserve a $750,000 soccer field?

After well-behaved inmates lost their old playing area, the military ponied up big time to get the ball rolling again

Soccer is making a comeback at Guantanamo. When the controversial, isolated detention center at the U.S. Navy base in Cuba closed down the open-air Camp 4 so inmates could move to Camp 6, an indoor facility, soccer-loving detainees lost a patch of dirt where they used to play. So, over the last year, a contractor has been constructing a brand new playing field for the prison's assorted al Qaeda suspects and captured fighters from Iraq and Afghanistan. The surprisingly pricey soccer field will be ready in April. Here, a brief guide to the lengths to which the military is going to keep detainees active:

What is the new field like?
It's about half the size of a regulation field and covered in two-toned gravel. A jogging track encircles the playing field, with shaded spots in the corners. The 28,000-square-foot recreation yard is fully fenced, and flanked by guard towers, lights, and surveillance cameras. Prisoners enter through enclosed walkways to discourage anyone from wandering... or escaping.

How much did all that cost?
The final price tag: $744,000. One reason for the hefty cost is the base's remote location. All construction projects there tend to cost double what they would run in the U.S. But to put that in perspective: The Obama administration says it probably spends $800,000 a year per detainee on basic operating costs for the detention center, which has 1,850 contractors, guards, and other staff members. Gitmo is home to 171 inmates, 120 of whom are housed at Camp 6.

Is this really a necessary expense?
The military clearly thinks so. Camp 6 is for inmates deemed "compliant," and the soccer field is intended to raise their morale and keep them in line. But not everyone agrees. "Simply appalling," says Marc Thiessen at The American. Plenty of struggling American towns would love a $750,000 soccer field, and we're buying one for suspected terrorists? It is a lot of money, says Matt Kiebus at Death and Taxes, but everything at Guantanamo costs a fortune. Don't forget the base's unused go-kart track that cost $296,000; at least, the inmates actually want a soccer field. Besides, it's not like this makes up for all the Geneva Convention violations.

SourcesThe AmericanDeath and Taxes, McClatchy Newspapers, Washington Post

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