Last month I published a piece here called “The Dungeon of Fallujah”:http://www.michaeltotten.com/archives/2008/02/the-dungeon-of.php about my visit to the wretched jail in the city. As it turns out, the place was worse than I thought. Prisoners had to supply their own food or starve. I didn’t report that detail because I didn’t know it. But Marine Major General John Kelly (whom I don’t think I met) read my report, investigated the jail, and fixed it. No one in the military talked to me about this. I learned about it from “Mary Madigan”:http://whataretheysaying.powerblogs.com/ in my comments section, she learned about it from “Ace”:http://ace.mu.nu/archives/258556.php, and he learned about it from “UPI”:http://www.upi.com/International_Security/Emerging_Threats/Briefing/2008/03/24/us_feeding_prisoners_in_iraqi_jails/4328/.
WASHINGTON, March 24 (UPI) — The U.S. military says it is taking steps to alleviate conditions at the Fallujah city jail in Iraq after recent visitors found a filthy, overcrowded facility.
“They are being fed now,” Lt. Col. Michael Callanan said of the prisoners, who until recently had to provide their own food or starve. Callanan, the point man for the U.S. military on rule-of-law issues in Anbar province, spoke to United Press International in a phone interview Monday.
Establishing the rule of law and functioning judicial institutions is a priority for Multi-National Force-West, the coalition military command in the province, Callanan said.
He said shortly after a visit to the Iraqi-run jail by the new commander of MNF-W Marine Maj. Gen. John Kelly, cash from a special commander’s contingency fund known as CERP was used to hire Iraqi contractors to feed “the majority of the prisoners in both Fallujah and Ramadi” city jails.
He said “similar measures” were being taken by local commanders with CERP funds at the other 27 smaller jails in the province. In Ramadi, he said, the military was transitioning from using contractors to “providing food … and an empty kitchen” to a women’s volunteer group that would feed the inmates.
He said two new facilities in Fallujah, a city jail for pre-trial detainees and a long-term facility for convicted prisoners, would be complete by spring 2009, and described the CERP contracts as a temporary measure implemented for humanitarian reasons “in order to bridge the gap” until long-term arrangements were put in place by the Iraqi Ministry of Justice.
Kelly’s visit followed a report on conditions at the jail by independent journalist Michael Totten. Totten found a facility built to hold 120 prisoners housing 900 without even minimal provision for sanitation or hygiene.
I’m a little bit stunned. I didn’t intend that piece to be “activist journalism,” but I guess that’s how it turned out.