The two main U.S. Army-run prisons, Abu Ghraib and Camp Bucca, are operating near their maximum or "surge" emergency limits. As of Saturday, the two prisons together held 10,178 inmates, with 1,630 detainees awaiting processing in different Army divisional and brigade headquarters.
The Army is expanding both sites and working on the third major prison, near Sulaymaniya, which would house up to 2,000 prisoners; the additions will increase the total U.S. long-term detention capability to more than 16,000 prisoners.
Because of the added need for prison space, Abu Ghraib is still in use and will be for the foreseeable future. The timeline for ending its use has been pushed back from this spring to next winter, and it doesn't look like there's going to be any end to the increased numbers of prisoners anytime soon:
A Combined Review and Release Board...decides which prisoners can be released and which pose an immediate threat and must be detained. Rudisill, the Army spokesman, said the criteria include: the quality of the evidence against the prisoner; capabilities such as military training or electrical skills that could be put toward making bombs; suspected connections to insurgent cells; and "expressed philosophy."
Note that actual evidence is only a small component of the review criteria. More important is any real or perceived interest running against the occupying army. Needless to say, the Board errs on the side of leaving people to rot in jail, as 60% of all those reviewed are judged as "high risk".
But let's be fair - if there was some significant sovereign Iraqi demand for such incarceration, the U.S. at least shouldn't be on the hook for it. So what's the view among Iraqis?
The detentions are among the most controversial U.S. practices in Iraq, triggering daily demands for the release of most prisoners from Iraqi lawmakers, clerics and community leaders.
So, to review, the current prison system in Iraq is expensive, ineffective and unpopular, and growing by leaps and bounds. One more success story for the invasion.