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The U.S. military in Iraq is holding some 600 juvenile detainees — ranging in age from 11 to 17 — and is building educational programs to address their special needs, officials said this week.

According to Navy Lt. Cmdr. K.C. Marshall, a spokesman for the task force that handles prisons and prisoners in Iraq, the juveniles are all held at Camp Cropper in Baghdad. Each day, they are bused from Cropper to the Dar Al Hikmah, or “House of Wisdom,” an “educational and rehabilitation facility” near the Baghdad airport, Marshall said.

There, they are given courses in core subjects such as Arabic, English, math, science and civics in the hope of preparing them “to continue their education in the Iraqi school system upon reintegration into society.”

The center was opened in August and is the only American detention facility meant specifically to house juveniles in Iraq. In all, there are some 26,000 prisoners in the U.S. system in Iraq; that number has risen steadily over previous years as a result of the “surge” in Baghdad and other locations.

“[Multi-National Force-Iraq] recognizes and accepts the responsibilities inherent to juvenile detention,” a U.S. statement read. “It continually evaluates its care and custody provisions and reintegration programs to ensure juveniles are afforded every opportunity to prepare themselves for successful reintegration into Iraqi society.”

Separately, 100 Iraqi prisoners were released from Camp Cropper on Friday, bringing the total number of prisoners released in 2008 to 785, officials said. An equal number of Sunni and Shiite prisoners were among those released Friday, officials said.

According to U.S. military figures, a total of 8,952 prisoners were released in 2007.

All of the detainees have been screened by a review board, and they must promise an Iraqi judge to renounce violence and work toward reconciliation with the government of Iraq.


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