Sunday, April 24, 2011

Harper's Sarpoza investment paying off in spades

The Great Sarpoza Prison Break, Part 2

On Friday, June 13, 2008, the Sarpoza Central Prison in Kandahar was broken open and some 1,100 inmates escaped, many apparently transported from the scene by prearranged buses.

"A man claiming to be one of the escapees called AFP from an unknown location to say the rebels had made it to safe havens. "'They (Taliban attackers) came in and freed us,' the man who identified himself as Abdullah told AFP over the phone, adding there were buses waiting outside. "'A number of us who would not fit in the buses escaped through pomegranate gardens. We all are in safe places now,' Abdullah said."

Now, April 24, 2011, after some $5,000,000 in improvements to the prison by the Canadian government, fewer than 500 prisoners escaped through a tunnel dug from the outside.

"According to one of the escapees (whose numbers could dramatically tip the odds in favour of the insurgents on the eve of this year's "fighting season"), the tunnel was of sufficient diameter and high enough for the prisoners to stand upright for most of their walk to freedom.

"Sections were lit by electric light and ventilated with fans, he said.

"One official who visited the prison said the tunnel had two exits, and that the second branch led to a wing of the prison housing ordinary criminals. For whatever reason, that equally grand escape did not come off.

"'I only found out that we were going to escape at midnight,' the 28-year-old insurgent, who did not give his name, said during a phone interview with the Guardian.

"The man, who had served three years of five-year sentence for fighting foreign forces in Afghanistan, said that a mere 20 minutes later he and his cellmates were taken to the entrance of the tunnel, a hole in the concrete floor that dropped down five feet to the tunnel passage itself.

"'It was very well organised. They only let a certain number of people go through at one time, because they wanted to make sure there was enough air to breathe in the tunnel.'

"When the escapee prisoners got to the construction company compound at the end of the tunnel, they were met by their commanders and taken off in cars to safe locations.

"And to compound the humiliation of the Afghan government and its Nato allies, the prison managers appear to have been totally unaware of the escape until long after the prisoners had disappeared into the night."

The encouraging news for Canada is the 50% reduction in escaped prisoners in only three years. At this rate and for another 5 million bucks, only 250 Taliban would escape by 2014.

The Montreal Gazette said it best in an article by Keith Gerein on March 28, 2011

"Despite these positive changes, some issues remain. Mirwais, the office manager, says that while there is strong demand for guard jobs, all but one of the 26 civilian positions are unfilled. Many are needed to staff the vocational unit, which has facilities for teaching inmates carpentry, carpet-making, sewing and welding.

"[Ian]Chinnery says such problems will have to be addressed by the Afghans and a small group of U.S. mentors, because the three remaining Canadian correctional officers are heading home over the next few months.

"Still, he said he believes the prison has largely conquered its biggest troubles.

"'We are pretty proud of how far we've come with this place,' Chinnery says.

"'The Afghans now need minimal assistance to run it. But leaving here is like watching your kid get on the school bus for the first time. You know he's going to be fine, but it's still hard to let go.'"

And according to the BBC:

"Police said they were looking for men without shoes - many escaped barefoot."