Cablegate: Services, Safety and Management Ongoing Concerns In


DE RUEHCL #0056/01 0881542
P 281542Z MAR 08





E.O. 12958: N/A
SUBJECT: Services, Safety and Management Ongoing Concerns in
Moroccan Prisons

1. (SBU) Summary: Six Americans have been arrested in Morocco in the
past five months, more than were arrested in all of FY07. The
recent increase has expanded Post's knowledge of the prison system
and the issues Americans face while incarcerated, including few
provisions for their basic needs, bribery, and poor security. End

2. (SBU) The arrests have been made on a variety of charges
including drug trafficking, robbery, sex tourism, desertion and
failure to pay child support. Sentences have ranged from 15 days to
six years. Police incarcerated prisoners in Tangiers, Marrakesh,
Sale and Casablanca and Post has recently visited each prison at
least once, if not repeatedly. The majority of cases involve dual
nationals, including Moroccan-Americans, a Nigerian-American and a
German-American. There are currently five Amcits in prison.


3. (SBU) The primary issue for prisoners is organizing sufficient
support for their personal needs. The prison provides food of poor
quality and prisoners are expected to augment it with food provided
by their family or by buying food from the prison cantina.
Similarly, clothes, sleeping gear, and personal hygiene products
must all be provided by the prisoner, his or her family or purchased
from the prison. Prisoners can set up accounts with the prison to
purchase needed goods. Foreign prisoners often trade what they have
or receive from their families for other goods that they need if
they do not have access to cash.

4. (SBU) Crowding is another major issue. In Casablanca's Okacha
prison, the largest in Morocco, one of the wardens estimated that
there are approximately 8,000 male prisoners and another 300 female
prisoners in a space that was designed to hold 5,000 prisoners.
Often 10-15 men are squeezed into a single cell. Most prisons,
though, have special sections for foreigners that are generally less
crowded and have better conditions.


5. (SBU) Security at the prisons varies but is often relaxed. The
guards do not carry weapons nor do they inspect everyone entering
the prison. There are few metal detectors and all searches are done
by hand with no additional equipment. The metal detectors that are
in place are not functional on a day-to-day basis and may only be
used when an official is visiting the prison. Okacha, which has
approximately 8300 prisoners, has 500 guards; a ratio of 16
prisoners to a single guard.

6. (SBU) Family is allowed to visit and bring large bags of goods
into the prison for an incarcerated relative. During visiting
hours, families gather close to the primary prison gate and wait to
be let in. From there, they proceed to a general waiting area where
they undergo an overall inspection before proceeding into another
waiting area to meet with their relative. Relatives of wealthy and
well-connected prisoners are not inspected to and do not wait in the
general area. They are quickly escorted into the prison where they
can meet with their relative in nicer waiting rooms. Anything they
bring to the prisoner then receives a general inspection before the
prisoner carries it back to his cell.

7. (SBU) The prison in Sale, known to hold some of Morocco's worst
criminals and terrorists, had tight security outside of the prison
but seemingly relaxed internal security. Before entering,
credentials for ConOff and Locally Engaged Staff were repeatedly
checked. However, once inside, ConOff and LES were escorted into a
locked general waiting area and left for almost an hour with more
than 40 prisoners but no prison guards. Some prisoners were meeting
with their lawyers in side rooms while others were talking with
other inmates. ConOff and LES had to search for someone to help them
contact the individuals they were there to see. This is the only
time we were left with inmates in a general holding area in the
course of more than 10 visits to different prisons.


8. (SBU) Bribery is common and prisoners quickly learn to navigate
between "official" rules and the prison reality. For example,
officially, cell phones are prohibited in prison. In reality, all
of our prisoners have managed to access cell phones regularly to
contact our offices and their families or friends. A prison warden
at Okacha alleged that one American prisoner was regularly using
drugs in prison - though officially such behavior is illegal. Post
is also aware of prisoners getting into knife fights despite
officials rules prohibiting weapons. Many prisoners have also
managed to arrange for access to cash without our help or the
prison's official involvement.

9. (SBU) Management at the prisons is mixed. Post is dependent on
its relationships with individual wardens for help and information.

Other guards and wardens generally do not know how to respond to our
requests. For ACS staff, prison management is a concern. Most
prison records are kept by hand and there is little evidence the
prisons use computers to track prisoners or any related data such as
visitor information. Okacha is working to computerize its records
but it is a slow process that has yet to yield results. This is a
particular issue when dealing with Moroccan-Americans who are often
not identified as Americans until Post visits them and thus are kept
in the general prison. (Note: Post is usually notified about the
arrest of a Moroccan-American by a family member or by the
individual, not the police.) Once identified as Americans, they are
moved to a nicer section for foreigners but first the prison must
locate the prisoner and their records.

10. Comment: Based on Post's experience, we are revising our SOPs
and training materials covering arrests to better respond to the
concerns and issues outlined above.


© Scoop Media

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