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Construction is underway for a facility in Ramadi that would offer detainees job training and other avenues in an effort to reduce recidivism.

Construction is underway for a facility in Ramadi that would offer detainees job training and other avenues in an effort to reduce recidivism. (Michael Gisick / S&S)

RAMADI, Iraq — As the U.S. military moves to draw down its detention centers in Iraq, it has sought to push detainees slated for release into rehabilitation programs that offer education and vocational training. The idea is that releasing people who have few job skills into communities that have few jobs is a recipe for quick recidivism.

Alongside a pilot program at Camp Cropper in Baghdad, the military is building two so-called "Theater Internment Facilities and Rehabilitation Centers," or "Tif-Rics," in military speak. One is going up in Taji, the other in Ramadi.

After a monthslong contracting delay, work has finally started on the $90 million U.S.-funded facility in Ramadi, which is scheduled to be completed in December. But U.S. officials acknowledge that December may be too late for the "Tif-Ric" here to serve its purpose.

Anbar province has seen declining violence for months, and the number of Anbar citizens being released from detention already outpaces the number entering the system, meaning that there may be too few detainees to justify the 8,000-capacity facility. The military would rather not hold large numbers of non-Anbar residents at the Ramadi facility, since detaining people hundreds of miles from their families has already proved a sore subject at the Camp Bucca detention center in southern Iraq. With the United Nations resolution that allows the U.S. to hold Iraqis set to expire in December, all things detainee have become an especially sensitive and uncertain subject.

"It’s still not clear who will be held" at the Ramadi facility, said Marine Corps Lt. Col. Michael Callanan, the deputy commander for "rule of law" issues under Multi-National Forces—West. And it remains possible, he said, that the facility will simply be turned over to the Iraqis.

"We’d be happy if it never has to open out here," Callanan said.

Designed to feel more like a campus than a prison, the "Tif-Ric" wouldn’t be appropriate for use as a traditional detention center, Callanan said, but it could be used as a school, military facility or training center.

Meanwhile, a facility that is designed to look like a prison is also planned for Ramadi near the site of the "Tif-Ric."

Anbar citizens convicted of a crime in the Iraqi court system used to be held at Abu Ghraib, but since that facility’s closure they’ve been scattered among the province’s 50 jails, which also hold people who haven’t been convicted. Ground is set to be broken in August for a new prison that would alleviate that problem.

Designed to hold 1,500 convicts, the $24 million prison — funded entirely by the U.S. — will be run by Iraqis, Callanan said.

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