Troops work to speed justice in Mosul
November 24, 2003
MOSUL, Iraq — Outside the high concrete walls of the Transportation Jail, dozens of men line up to visit the pretrial detainees held inside.
Inside, some of those 191 inmates have had to wait months to see a judge and learn what they will face next in judicial proceedings against them.
U.S. Army military police are working with the Iraqi court system to speed up that process. They want to avoid having detainees linger for long periods of time without even a bond hearing.
“It’s finally getting to the point where it’s becoming a fair system,” said Maj. Scott Fuller, a National guardsman from the 156th Military Police Company detachment from Logan, W.Va., and assigned to the 503rd MP battalion of the 101st Airborne Division’s 2nd Brigade.
He and Staff Sgt. Rick Nottingham, battalion liaisons at the jail, are working with Mosul judicial officials to establish a system that makes sure suspects go before a judge within 24 hours of arrest.
Under the old system, suspects remained jailed without a bond hearing while investigators gathered information.
“It was a mess,” said Fuller, 42, from Huntington, W.Va. “If they found out someone was not guilty during the course of the investigation, that person spent three to four months in jail when they could’ve been sitting at home.”
Fuller said he hopes the new bond system is in place within a week.
Any new arrests made in Mosul, Iraq’s third-largest city, are supposed to be brought to the Transportation Jail, where they will be held until they face trial.
The jail, a renovated school, opened Oct. 25 to alleviate the burden on precincts’ small holding facilities, said Nottingham, 37, a fellow guardsman with the 156th MPs from Gauley Bridge, W.Va.
Its inmates are being held for “everything from stealing a brick to murder,” he said.
Fuller, a police officer, and Nottingham, a state prison captain, said the Iraqi inmates are more docile than those in the States. On one occasion, 170 were transported to the jail without a single incident.
The guardsmen are the only American regulars at the jail. On a rotating basis, two three-soldier teams supervise about 80 Iraqi jailers.
Soldiers from the Fort Bragg, N.C.-based 65th and 108th Military Police companies make up the teams. Most MPs may spend only one day at the jail during their deployment.
“The Iraqi police pretty much run the show,” said Staff Sgt. Michael McTernan, 29, a squad leader with the 65th MPs. “We’re just here to supervise.”
Up to 14 inmates are held in a 16-by-20-feet cell. The jail’s superintendent wouldn’t allow inmates to be interviewed or photographed.
Inmates are allowed out an hour a day for recreation. For the 185 men, that consists of strolling around a 10-by-80-foot open-air hallway that looks out on a courtyard where their visitation takes place.
During their recreation, the six female inmates wander their smaller, enclosed hallway, which offers no view of the outside. The women go outdoors only for court appearances.
Until security is enhanced, it isn’t practical to allow the women outside, the guardsmen said. “For security reasons, it’s justified [keeping the women indoors],” Nottingham said.
Conditions at the jail could improve soon. Jail officials have submitted proposals to the U.S.-led Coalition Provisional Authority for security improvements, including cameras and new fences and lighting. CPA officials are scheduled to visit the jail this week.
They also hope to establish separate buildings for visitation and courthouses and an outdoor recreation area, which men and women would take turns using.