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Extreme Makeover: Afghan Prison Edition

The U.S. military has given a controversial Afghan prison a makeover, closing the windowless Bagram detention facility and opening Parwan in its place. The Red Cross has criticized the poor conditions at Bagram; two inmates died there in 2002, and it's even been compared to Abu Ghraib. It closed in January. Today, inmates of the new Parwan prison get visits from their wives and kids, play soccer, and learn English and how to sew suits. As part of the counterinsurgency strategy pushed by Gen. David Petraeus and Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the military hopes a new transparency and openness will help win over locals from the Taliban—not to mention deprive the Taliban of the key propaganda tool that was the secretive and unpopular Bagram facility. Plus, petty criminals won’t be radicalized by mixing with hardened insurgents. On the other hand, at Parwan, detainees still don’t have full legal rights, as when they’re given a “personal representative” instead of a lawyer.