The United States prisons system has evolved over time from correctional approaches to brutality. This is evident through a closer scrutiny of the historical development of the prisons, such as the one in Guantanamo Bay. This essay is an analysis of the Kurnaz’s experiences and book in a bid to understand the history of the prisons in the U.S. It begins by summarizing the experiences of Murat Kurnaz, analyzing the latent themes and later outlines the relevance of the prison experiences in the evolution of the US correctional systems.
The History of the Prisons in the U.S. in the Kurnaz’s Book
Prisons play an important role in dealing with offenders. In the U.S., the prison system has developed from purely corrective to punishment approaches; at least in Guantanamo Bay. Moreover, this analysis is based on the fact that the security systems have adopted a new way in dealing with foreigners with no clear identity, especially from the September 11 2001 attacks. Acts of terrorism have led to arrest and consequent interrogation of foreigners with no clear identity. The Guantanamo Bay Prison is one of the correctional facilities that has adopted intensive investigation of inmates suspected to be terrorists. Scrutiny of Murat Kurnaz’s story gives very important insights into the historical development of Guantanamo Bay Prison.
Five years of my life: An innocent man in Guantanamo records the ordeal of Murat Kurnaz, 19 year old German Turk who was imprisoned for several years having committed no crime. In 2001, Kurnaz had traveled to Pakistan to attend Madrassa. However, during one of the security checks, he was arrested having been suspected of having links with Al-Qaeda. After his arrest, the Pakistani police sold him off to the U.S. military after which he was transferred to Guantanamo Bay. There, he spent over 1600 days in a cage and under intense torture. After four years of torture, Kurnaz was found innocent. The U.S. government admitted of having made a mistake in confusing him with a terrorist. When he went home, Germany, he realized that his government had learnt of his innocence since the beginning but did not want to accept him.
An analysis of the circumstances leading to his arrest, ‘sale’, torture and release tell a lot about the Guantanamo prison and the role of the U.S. in the fight against global terrorism. First of all, the selling off to the U.S. military was an indication that the country was an authority in the fight against terrorism. The Pakistani police did not have the adequate intelligence or information on the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The second item of analysis is the mere use of skin color as a way of detecting terrorists. Kurnaz was pilled out of a bus in Pakistan simply because he had a light complexion that resembled Al-Qaeda. It appears that there was a lot of assumption on the part of the security personnel. The other assumption was that he was worth on $3,000 bounty. Further, during the interrogation by the American military, Kurnaz was expected to give the ‘right’ answers on his whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. Since he did not have any information, he was subjected to cruel punishment: being hung fro hours, electric shock and water boarding.
Guantanamo Bay prison attendants are very brutal. However, a closer scrutiny into their brutality seems to point out that they are afraid of the ‘terrorists’ lest they out wit and kill them. Therefore, perennial mistreatment at the prison could be attributed to psychological fears and inferiority complex on the part of the American captors. The beatings, the isolation, the intense heat and brutality of American soldiers made Kurnaz contemptuous of Americans. He describes them as ‘afraid of every little scratch…they are like little girls’. Other sources indicate that since its onset in 2002, the Guantanamo Bay prison has led prisoners to commit suicide that to be subjected on daily torture. It is comprised of Camp Iguana, Camp Echo and Camp X-Ray, which housed Kurnaz but has been closed. Ultimately, it appears to be a battle of political power: Angela Merkel had to intervene for Kurnaz’s release.
Early prisons of the New World were not meant for punishment of offenders. Most of the prisons were meant for containing political offenders. Other reasons as to why people were imprisoned included public shame, fines, physical chastisement and sometimes death. However, as time went by, the nature of crimes kept on changing. This led to a pro rata change in the punishments prescribed in the prisons. Capital punishment and death penalty cannot be overlooked in tracing the history of prisons in general, especially before the turn of the 20th century. By the turn on the 21st century, global terrorism led to adoption of new approaches to the old ways of investigation. Established in 2002, the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base prison was meant to try people believed to be involved in Afghanistan-Iraq wars. Since the U.S. continues to be in political strife with the terrorists, the prison will continue to play a relevant role in the interrogation of terrorists. However, it appears that the prison system should develop more precise methods of detecting terrorists so that innocent travelers are not subjected to unnecessary torture.
In conclusion, the history of Guantanamo Bay prison is traced in the rise of terrorism and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Set in 2002 by the Bush administration, the military prison has adopted a different way of dealing with crime as opposed to the mainstream correctional facilities. Murat Kurnaz was experienced most of the historical developments in the setting up and running of the prison. His short book offers many insights on this history.