Monitoring Gitmo releasees

Make them wear GPS anklets with tamper-evident bands. Problem solved.

Most of what I have seen of the discussion of what to do with the Guantanamo detainees after the place is closed down assumes that it would be dangerous to release them within the United States. Even those who weren’t terrorists when captured have had several years to internalize both jihadist ideology picked up from their cellmates and hatred of the U.S. generated by their unjustified incarceration and, in at least some cases, maltreatment. How, it is said, could we dare to let such people loose in our midst?

My answer: easily. In fact, the United States is precisely where we want those folks to be.

It’s now possible to build a GPS unit small enough to wear as an anklet, with a tamper-evident band that makes it impossible to remove the unit without being detected. Add to that a transmitter (also available in miniature) and you have a device that makes the wearer’s location continuously monitorable. How much terrorist plotting could someone do under those circumstances? They would be so intensely radioactive that no actual terrorist would dare meet with them, for fear of being identified by the authorities. And that doesn’t even count those who might be “turned” as double agents.

Would some of the subjects attempt to escape surveillance by removing their anklets? Probably. And how long would it take to catch them, if were were willing to spend on monitoring their whereabouts any considerable fraction of what it cost to keep a prisoner at Gitmo? Not long, I’d warrant.

Your next question will be, “So why can’t we do the same for ordinary criminals, thus cutting the prison population in half without increasing the crime rate?” Excellent question.

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: