Detainees Odds-on Favorites over U.S. Prisoners

The Pentagon has determined one in seven Guantanamo Bay detainees will return to life as a terrorist. That would be a recidivism rate of 14 percent. Of the 534 prisoners released from GITMO, 74 have fallen off the wagon.

By comparison, the recidivism rate in the U.S. prison system is as high as 73.8 percent for some offenders. How’s that for perspective?

Here’s a more sobering figure: a 15-state Bureau of Justice study published in 2002 showed the re-arrest rate for violent offenders within three years of release was 60 percent.

Granted, GITMO has some bad guys and the sample size might be too small to get an accurate picture. But a recidivism rate of 14 percent compared with more than half of violent offenders released from U.S. prisons landing back behind bars in short order is dramatic. Much debate has surrounded whether some of GITMO’s wrong-place, wrong-time guests belong there or not. Regardless, their incarceration was less than inviting. Violent U.S. prisoners probably received better treatment behind maximum security bars. The figures can lead one to infer we might be safer with those released from GITMO than those exiting say, Louisiana’s Angola bound for the big city or smaller environs.

The politicos like to frighten their constituents with their talking points like “One terrorist … is one too many.” But what does the risk assessment suggest? Given the striking difference in recidivism, it appears there is considerably more risk with U.S. ex-cons than with purported terrorists. Sure, some of the GITMO guys will return to radical Islam. Sure, they might recruit the non-radical to join them, but there are legions to do that work already, and the U.S. and its allies are well aware they must win the middle to defeat radical Islamists. The gang of 74? The data suggests we might have to accept recidivism of 14 percent. (It would be reasonable for one to rejoice in the rate.) The U.S. not only accepts the ungodly rate of 60 percent with murderers, rapists and pedophiles, but fights for the rights of these ex-cons because that’s what our system does. (Serving one’s debt? Blah blah blah.) But toss in the World Trade Center, the Pentagon, and four downed aircraft (and the reasonable fear it could all happen again), and it’s a different kettle of fish.

Fourteen percent or the murderer next door? You choose.

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