Utahns Teach Iraqis to Run Humane Prisons

Utahns Teach Iraqis to Run Humane Prisons

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Karen Scullin ReportingTwo former prison officials from Utah are back in the U.S. after spending four months helping to set up a new corrections system in Iraq.

Lane McCotter and Gary DeLand both have experience in the Utah Department of Corrections and in many other areas of the criminal justice system. They also recently used their knowledge to help Iraq find law and order in a post-Saddam era.

The challenges were never ending for Lane McCotter and Gary DeLand. The biggest battle for them was dealing with Saddam's leftovers -- the thinking that the only way to run a prison was the old way.

Bombs, gun battles, soldiers dying, but according to the two men who have been there that's not the majority of what's happening in Iraq today.

Gary DeLand/Iraqi Prison Advisor: “People are right back at it, they're farming, they're running their stores. The traffic is brutal almost; there's a ton of people on the street, so you're seeing a major transformation almost."

Gary DeLand and Lane McCotter explained on KSL Radio how they were sent to Iraq to help put the prison system back in action. In four months they did; hiring former Iraqi correctional officers to run the prisons and then firing almost every one of them.

Lane McCotter, Iraqi Prison Advisor: “All they knew how to do was very cruel. If someone got out of line, they would just beat 'em. Gary fired the general that we had hired that had been over three or four prisons because he was the one perpetrating this with the former officers; thinking that we were going to go away, business as usual.”

Gary DeLand: “First time I fired a general, and first time I ever fired anybody at gunpoint."

Starting over they decided to recruit from the Iraqi military. The applicants were sent through Deland's new "corrections academy", and taught the humane way to run a prison. The new plan worked.

Lane McCotter: “They never had the experience of working in a system that was so corrupt and cruel"

In four months, five prisons were set to open, seven more by the end of this year. They remodeled, rebuilt and walled off old torture chambers and death houses. McCotter and Deland say it's not an overnight transformation, but it is progress.

Gary DeLand: “The thing that I heard constantly, and I know it was the same for other people around, was not ‘Go home’, but ‘Please don't leave’, fear that we were going to leave."

The two men hope to go back to Iraq to continue their work.

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