U.S. Expects Iraq Prison Growth

With an inmate population of 13,800, Camp Bucca is the largest U.S. detention center in Iraq. The military is preparing to hold more prisoners.
With an inmate population of 13,800, Camp Bucca is the largest U.S. detention center in Iraq. The military is preparing to hold more prisoners. (By Steve Fainaru -- The Washington Post)
By Walter Pincus
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, March 14, 2007

The United States is expanding its two major detention centers in Iraq with the expectation that the new security crackdown in Baghdad will add hundreds and perhaps thousands of prisoners to the 17,000 it holds, U.S. military spokesmen said.

The U.S.-led military coalition in Iraq runs two large prison facilities: Camp Bucca in southern Iraq, and Camp Cropper outside Baghdad. Camp Bucca today holds 13,800 Iraqi detainees, said Navy Lt. Cmdr. Clifford A. Siegfried, a military spokesman, whereas Camp Cropper holds 3,300 Iraqi detainees. But the population at Cropper is expected to grow to 5,000 within 12 months, according to a one-year military contract proposal to handle food services for detainees and Iraqi correctional officers at the facility beginning in July.

Gen. David H. Petraeus, the U.S. commander in Iraq, reiterated the expected increase in detainees when he told reporters last week that the effort "to expand the U.S. capacity for detention" in Iraq was one reason 2,200 U.S. Army military police personnel are part of the troop increase in Iraq.

The Camp Cropper contract proposal, reviewed by The Washington Post, underscores the detainee increase and offers insight into U.S. detention practices in Iraq -- including a ban against hiring local staffers and an emphasis on meal practices sensitive to local traditions.

According to the food contract, local Iraqis and Iraqi companies are prohibited from preparing and serving food for the detainees. Neither the U.S. government nor Iraqi government "presently has a vetting process which would accommodate Iraqi employees while ensuring adequate security," according to the contract proposal.

Instead, the contactor is to use "expatriates and third-country nationals." Any third-country nationals hired must live in trailers or tents provided by the contractor on a U.S. military base near the food facility. "This was done for the security and safety of the installation and the workers" and at the request of the U.S. military police battalion on the base, Siegfried said.

The Iraqi guards at the facility are employees of Iraq's Ministry of Justice, which supposedly vets them. Nonetheless, while working at the Camp Cropper detention facility, the guards must be matched with U.S. soldiers, escorted by U.S. units as they travel to and from work, and housed in a compound on the base guarded by U.S. forces, Siegfried said.

However, the guards receive some benefits: Their meals on the base include a wider selection of food and "shall consist of 25% larger portions" than detainees' meals, according to the contract.

All food consumed at the Camp Cropper prison must be purchased outside Iraq and convoyed into the country by either U.S. or Iraqi military forces, according to the contract. That is because food vendors must be inspected by U.S. officials and "currently there are no Iraqi-approved sources for food contracts," said Siegfried.

The Camp Cropper proposal requires the contractor to provide three meals a day for up to 5,000 detainees and 600 Iraqi correctional officers, some of whom are still in training. The meals provided detainees and guards "shall comply with traditional Muslim ethnic meals and traditions," according to the contract. Detainee meals must be prepared using "a chef experienced with Iraqi culture."

For detainees, the only eating utensil is to be a disposable "spork" -- a spoon with short teeth in the middle that serves as a fork. As a result, all meat, fish and chicken served must have bones removed, according to the contract.

Correspondent Ernesto LondoƱo in Baghdad contributed to this report.

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