Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Rural residents say relocating Guantánamo Bay inmates to Southern Colorado will hurt tourism

Rural residents in Southern Colorado, which is home to seven state and four federal prisons that house some of the most notorious criminals in recent history, say they don't want inmates from Guantánamo Bay, Jack Healy reports for The New York Times. President Obama has promised to close Guantánamo Bay, and Southern Colorado is a site officials have considered for relocating prisoners. (Best Places map: Florence, Colo., a town of 3,800 is one location being considered for Guantánamo Bay detainees)

Colorado prisons are already home to unabomber Ted Kaczynski, Boston Marathon bomber Dzhokhar Tsarnaeva, a Sept. 11 conspirator and 10,000 other inmates, Healy writes. "While some people here say the prisoners would be safely locked away, like the thousands of others who are already here, other residents worry their community could become a target. And some have legal objections to imprisoning dozens of detainees who have not been convicted criminally."

Sheriff James Beicker of Fremont County, which is home to the United States Penitentiary, Administrative Maximum Facility in Florence, one of the locations being considered for Guantánamo Bay detainees, was one of 40 Colorado sheriffs who signed a letter to Obama last week opposing any Guantánamo transfers to Colorado. He told Healy, “It just doesn’t make sense to bring these dangerous people to our ground. Why put any extra level of threat to our state or my county?”

Residents say "they do not want the added notoriety of housing 61 Guantánamo detainees," Healy writes. "The tourism-reliant county recently lost out on an effort to attract a call center, and a recent sexting scandal at the high school in nearby Cañon City scared away a business looking to relocate." Keith Ore, mayor of Florence, told Healy, “Something of that magnitude could just come in and destroy this town.”

"While state and federal corrections officers handle security inside prison walls, the police and sheriff deal with any issues outside the gates," Healy writes. "They geared up when protesters gathered to condemn a 60-year prison term for a Colombian rebel leader. They investigated last year when two middle-school girls got Facebook messages from a stranger asking them for photos of their school." (Read more)

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