As President Obama continues to work towards his pledge to close Guantanamo Bay, there is a question that has and continued to be ignored. This question is: what happens after Guantanamo? What happens when prisoners are released are from its hellish walls?
At this point in the final months of Obama's presidency, it is unfortunately conceivable that the prison will remain open in 2017. This will necessitate increasing and consistent advocacy on the release and/or trial of the remain in prisoners, while at the same time, realizing the detrimental impact of Guantanamo of those released.
While Guantanamo Bay has housed 779 men, the number has now decreased to under 100. While this represents sort of a victory, many of the men have been released to third countries without support whether financial, psychosocial or otherwise.
Absent significant support that would recognize the massive amounts of trauma that these prisoners have experienced and continue to suffer from is perhaps why former Uruguayan President Mujica said that the behavior six prisoners released to his country was "abysmal." This language is extremely detrimental, and not only minimizes the struggles of the men post-release, but also ignores the trauma that they surely carry with them.
Mujica continued further, that the behavior of the men was discouraging other countries from taking other prisoners in. Rather than individualizing the behavior of these men and treating their actions as indicative of their "normal" behavior, the subsequent discourse that follows the closure of Guantanamo and the resettlement of the men should necessarily focus on the ways in which imprisonment and torture have negatively impacted these men. Moreover, it is imperative that the United States takes responsibility for creating a situation where a) the men are sent to third countries in the first place; and b) for releasing them with little to no financial/social/psychological/familial/linguistic support.
Guantanamo Bay is a physical prison, but leaves scars for those who have been released. Rather than trying to rectify the damage that has been done to their lives, media attention has focused largely on the conduct of prisoners in a vacuum. If we are to fully address the consequences that Guantanamo Bay has wrought onto prisoners, then it is important that we focus not only on prisoner release, but also prisoner rehabilitation, acknowledgement of wrongdoing and reparations. Only then, will prisoners be able to resume some semblance of a "normal" life.