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Seton Hall Law Report Refutes Senator Inhofe’s Claims About Obesity Epidemic as ‘The Biggest Problem’ in Guantanamo; Finds Wild Fluctuations in Individual Detainee Weights

Obesity Levels Nearly Double That of Guantanamo in Senator Inhofe’s Home State of Oklahoma; Government Data Shows Extreme Weight Gains and Losses in Quick Succession Among Detainees

Seton Hall University School of Law’s Center for Policy & Research has issued a report, “The Guantanamo Diet: Actual Facts About Detainee Weight Changes.”

Senator Jim Inhofe (R) of Oklahoma recently asserted that the United States should deny detainees at the Guantanamo Bay Detention Facility any family visits because they are already treated too well. In support of this, Inhofe cited an alleged obesity epidemic at Guantanamo, because “They're eating better than they've ever eaten before.”

Despite media reports attributing detainee weight gain to the fact that most detainees arrived at Guantanamo underweight, the Center’s research shows that only 6.6% of detainees were underweight when they arrived. Nearly 66% were normal upon arrival and 23% were overweight. Claims of an average twenty-pound increase in weight are unsupported by the data, which is derived from government records.

In response to Senator Inhofe’s central contention, the Center for Policy & Research conducted a thorough review of the height and weight data released by the Department of Defense in March 2007. To do so, it had to examine over 27,000 cells of data, which revealed a strikingly different picture than that described by Senator Inhofe.

Professor Mark Denbeaux, Director of the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy and Research stated, “There’s significantly more obesity in Senator Inhofe’s home state of Oklahoma than there is at GTMO. And unlike GTMO, in Oklahoma it’s constant. The detainees’ weight varies so wildly that many have been obese briefly and underweight and malnourished at other times. Nevertheless, the rate of obesity in Oklahoma is nearly double that of GTMO.”

The rate of obesity in Oklahoma is in excess of 30%; in Guantánamo it is 16%.

Senior Fellow Paul W. Taylor noted, “As important as obesity is, a different and far more disturbing picture was revealed by the government medical data. There are wild fluctuations in the weight of individual detainees in very short periods of time. Even after accounting for possible recording errors, it’s not uncommon for detainees to gain in excess of 40 pounds in a month. And it’s not uncommon for detainees to lose in excess of 40 pounds in a month. In fact, these two things often happen in quick succession.”

Professor Denbeaux concluded, “The most compelling question is how can the detainees’ weight swing from obese to under nourished when the medical staff is in complete control of all food intake.”

Seton Hall University School of Law, New Jersey’s only private law school, and a leading law school in the New York metropolitan area, is dedicated to preparing students for the practice of law through excellence in scholarship and teaching, with a strong focus on clinical education. “The Guantanamo Diet: Actual Facts About Detainee Weight Changes,” is the Seton Hall Law Center for Policy & Research’s nineteenth Guantánamo Report. Center reports have been introduced into the Congressional Record by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate Judiciary Committee, the House Armed Services Committee, and as part of a Resolution by the European Parliament. The Guantánamo reports have also been cited by media throughout the world. “The Guantanamo Diet: Actual Facts About Detainee Weight Changes,”and all previous reports, may be found at http://law.shu.edu and will be included in the Guantánamo Archives, a joint project between Seton Hall Law School and New York University to document, preserve, and make accessible the legal records and the human stories of the Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp.