News: Detainee Mail: Humane Care
Story by Sgt. Michael Baltz
Detainee mail has a significant role to ensure the Joint Task Force Guantanamo mission of safe, humane, legal and transparent care and custody of detainees at U.S. Naval Station Guantanamo Bay.
"It is very important, because this is [one of the few ways detainees] can communicate with their family," said Army Staff Sgt. Luis Ortiz-Medina, the detainee mail non-commissioned officer-in-charge. "It also gives them something to look forward to."
The mail service receives mail, processes it and delivers it to the detainee.
"They are happy when they see us," Ortiz-Medina said. "When they get mail, people can tell that they are happy."
There are mail clerks that go into the camps and deliver the mail to the detainees once a week. Detainees also have a weekly opportunity to send mail out.
"We provide them mail services Monday through Thursday," Ortiz-Medina said. "Along with delivering mail to them, the clerks also pick up any mail the detainee wishes to send out."
The majority of the mail that goes into and out of the camps is from and to family members.
"The detainees like getting mail from their family," said Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Jared Borg, a mail clerk. "It takes their mind off of things like harassing [the] guards, because when they are writing a letter, for 30 or 40 minutes, their mind is elsewhere."
The detainee mail section also provides the detainees with paper and envelopes. They also give the detainees Ramadan cards to send home.
Although allowing detainees to communicate with their families is important, the continued safety of all JTF Guantanamo personnel and the detainees must always be considered. For this reason, all mail is checked for contraband.
The International Committee of the Red Cross travels to the base every three months, and this is when a bulk of the mail that detainees receive arrives.
"The family member of the detainee gives their letter to their ICRC, who then brings it here," Borg explained. "We get it, process it and return it to the ICRC representative. The ICRC representative then meets with detainees to ensure that they are well, and that is when the detainee receives the letter.
"They usually include photos of family members;" Borg added.
The detainee mail section tracks each piece of mail from sender to destination.
"The biggest challenge with our job is maintaining operational security," Borg concluded.
For more information about Joint Task Force Guantanamo, visit the Web site at www.jtfgtmo.southcom.mil.