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The U.S. military says the first group of detainees to attend a seven-week education program at one of the military prisons in Iraq has “graduated.”

Dubbed “The Hasty School,” the program at Camp Bucca gave prisoners “seven weeks studying Arabic, English, math, science, geography and civics to a first to third-grade level,” according to a news release issued Tuesday.

Military officials said the program was part of several initiatives to steer prisoners away from violence or crime. Other initiatives have included education programs and youth art contests.

“Many of those we hold in the detention facilities are illiterate, disillusioned and angry, and some have become security threats to Iraq because they felt they had no other way to make a living or were influenced by radicals,” Maj. Gen. Douglas Stone, commander of Task Force 134, which oversees the American detention system in Iraq, said in the statement.

“The educational programs can provide detainees with a basic education and an opportunity to succeed when they are released. We are helping them learn to read, write and be productive in a non-aggressive environment.”

In August, the military announced it had opened the first detention facility meant specifically to house juvenile prisoners. According to the American command in Baghdad, the Dar al-Hikmah facility houses some 600 detainees from 11 to 17 years old and provides “basic education instruction.”

There are some 17,000 prisoners in the U.S. system in Iraq; that number has risen over previous years as a result of the “surge” in Baghdad and other locations.

The Camp Bucca education program is housed in a building constructed by the prisoners, officials said Tuesday.

Bucca also has the Inner-Compound School, “which is taught by both hired and detainee teachers in 17 compounds to more than 3,000 detainees at Camp Bucca, and a work and vocational training program that enables detainees to send money home to support their families,” the military said.

In late October, officials said Camp Bucca — the largest U.S. prison in Iraq — is undergoing more than $110 million worth of work that will allow the military to expand the prison population from 20,000 to 30,000.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is overseeing the Camp Bucca projects.

The camp “has grown steadily since its inception in 2003 as a British-run camp, growing even in the face of now long-abandoned plans to close it down,” the release announcing those projects read.

The camp became the focus of U.S. military prison operations in Iraq after the return of Abu Ghraib to the Iraqis in 2006.


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