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Detainees released after time served

15 Sep 2004 | Lance Cpl. Graham Paulsgrove

From the air they breathe to the food they eat, everything will be a little bit sweeter as free men, and at the same time, the Iraqi Government gets a little more independent.

Abu Graib Detention Center made its second largest release in its history by freeing over 500 detainees charged with minor offenses and deemed not a threat to Coalition Forces.

"With addition of more Iraqi Officials to the release board, the Iraqis are one step closer to running their own corrections forces," said Oceanside, Calif., native, Chief Warrant Officer-2 Rodney R. Gauthier, corrections officer, 1st Marine Division. 

"The board reviewing prisoners cases was changed, so now six of the officials on the board are Iraqis, and three are Coalition," said Louisville, Ky., native, Maj. Robert Q. Ward, division detentions officer, 1st Marine Division.  "The process of review ensures we don't hold anyone who does not pose a threat to the coalition."

Additionally, prisoners who are being held with little evidence are more likely to be released from detention centers quickly.

"We have to have the proper evidence and the proper statements from witnesses to hold the individual, otherwise, he may not be taken in or if he is taken in, the Review and Release Board will release him quickly," said Gauthier.  "Our units have done a very good job of collecting all of the needed evidence, so there has been very little problems with the prisoners the Division has taken."

The Iraqi Interim Government has implemented an electronic records system in all of the detention centers. Now, if a prisoner is released from one prison and then commits another crime and is thrown in another prison, he will be known as a repeat offender.

"The electronic system will let the Iraqis know where a prisoner has been and what is on their record," said Gauthier.  "A repeat offender is less likely to be released early, because they pose a greater threat to coalition forces."

When the Review and Release Board chooses which prisoners are going to be released they notify the commands that dropped them off.

"After the joint board recommends detainees for release, we pick up the ones who belong to us and were caught in our AO," said Ward.  "We pick them up at Abu Graib and drop them off at Ramadi to turn them over to Iraqi Officials at the Joint Coordination Center."

Once the detainees have been released they go back to their families, and hopefully on to make better choices in the future.

"Hopefully, they have learned their lesson," said Gauthier.  "I would like to think that the prisoners think about how they were treated fairly and just, and they realize that the Coalition aren't the bad guys after all."