The Pentagon awarded a new contract to provide teachers to Gitmo detainees

“Due to cultural and religious considerations, seminars shall be instructed by a male instructor.”
“Due to cultural and religious considerations, seminars shall be instructed by a male instructor.”
Image: REUTERS/Lucas Jackson
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There are currently 40 “war on terror” detainees being held at the US naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, down from a high of 677 inmates in 2003. While US president Donald Trump has said he wants to keep Guantanamo open to ensure the government has “all necessary power to detain terrorists, wherever we chase them down, wherever we find them,” the facility hasn’t received a single new prisoner since Trump took office.

Regardless of the size of the inmate population, the Geneva Conventions require that detainees “receive mental and intellectual stimulation” while they’re there. The Pentagon notes that it provides access to satellite TV, indoor and outdoor recreation, and a library, and detainees can choose from nearly 300 video games, split about 60/40 between Playstation 3 and Nintendo DS titles.

They also take classes, in a variety of subjects—and Global Dimensions LLC, a veteran-owned defense contractor based in Fredericksburg, Virginia, has been awarded the $3.3 million contract to provide the coming year’s teachers, according to government documents. Between 2000 and 2015, Global Dimensions earned more than $1.1 million from US contracts at Gitmo. Global Dimensions CEO Chris Newton did not respond to a request for a comment on the new contract, nor did the two US Navy contracting officers overseeing the program.

Global Dimensions “shall develop the curriculum, furnish instruction materials, and instruct seminars to detainees on a variety of subjects,” the original solicitation issued by the Navy explains. Those subjects will include literacy, art, life skills/general education, nutrition, and horticulture.

Instructors will need to be fluent in Arabic and/or Pashto, as well as English. They will also have to be male—“due to cultural and religious considerations,” the solicitation specified.

Inmates “shall be restrained, and guards will be present at all times within the classroom,” the Navy noted, adding, “There have not been any incidents of assault on an instructor by the detainees.”

Buried within one of several attachments issued by the Navy to potential bidders are further details about the desired curricula. Literacy seminars “shall include reading and writing at the beginner, intermediate, and advanced levels as appropriate for the individual detainees. The English literacy seminar shall, at a minimum, equip detainees with the ability to understand simple instructions in English and respond appropriately.”

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The art program at Guantanamo is intended to “focus on engaging the individual interests of detainees,” which is expected to include “painting and drawing in several mediums such as watercolor, acrylic, pastels, and charcoal.” Additional topics “may include Arabic calligraphy, art history, model building, plaster carving, or any other area of interest, with approval.”

The life skills/general education classes will focus on math, science, music, reading, business and finance, computers, and other subjects “based on the interest and engagement of the detainees.” The nutrition course will “cover the principles of nutrition and the scientific foundations of exercise and fitness.” Finally, detainees will learn the principles of horticulture and have an opportunity to get “practical experience planting and caring for a garden.”

Classes will last between 45 and 90 minutes. Class size, said the Navy, “is limited by classroom capacity and guard force availability.”

Global Dimensions will also be responsible for staffing the library at the military prison. This will include “the review and redaction of all library materials, in accordance with applicable JTF-GTMO policies and procedures, prior to distribution to the detainees.” The Pentagon notes that the detainee library at Guantanamo “offers more than 33,000 items,” including books, movies, and periodicals. Reading materials come in 19 different languages and range from picture books to doctorate-level works.

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Detainees have access to the library “weekly, at a minimum.” Once the books are brought back, the procurement documents specify, the contracted library staff “shall screen all returned materials for defacement, notes, messages, graffiti, or any other damage and report it to the Detainee Programs staff the same day it is found.” Inmates at Guantanamo reportedly prefer John Grisham and Dan Brown novels. As for the video games, a military official told the Miami Herald that FIFA 2018 has recently been Gitmo’s most popular.

The new contract with Global Dimensions will begin Dec. 16.