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Prisons construction focus of last US Iraq rebuilding project

[JURIST] The US State Department [official website] has asked Congress for $100 million for building prisons in Iraq, its only remaining large-scale reconstruction project in the country. State Department Iraq Coordinator James Jeffrey [official profile; budget briefing transcript] describes the exercise as creating “additional bed capacity of the Iraqi legal system.” Iraqis will eventually take custody of thousands of detainees currently held by the US, and money would also be allocated to increase the number of prosecutors and corrections advisers and provide protection for judges, said Jeffrey.

The initial goal of the US rebuilding program in Iraq, so far allocated over $20 billion dollars by Congress, was to fix the country’s failing infrastructure by putting money towards electricity and water projects, but significant funds were later diverted for security spending in the face of the Iraqi insurgency. Critics suggest that allocating more money to building jails in the wake of the Abu Ghraib scandal [JURIST news archive] would be a public relations mistake, and that the prisons are a dubious final monument to the US presence in the country. Total funds sought by the State Department for its Iraqi assistance programs in 2006 and 2007 amount to $4 billion [State Dept. breakdown and description, PDF]. Reuters has more.

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