Few institutions in Afghanistan have enjoyed as much Canadian largesse as this stone-walled prison in Kandahar city.
In the aftermath of the last jailbreak three years ago, there was a $2-million building program that improved Sarpoza's gates, walls and towers. And those were only the visible upgrades. In total, Ottawa committed $5-million to a complete overhaul of the facility and its staffing.
Three officials from Correctional Service Canada made regular visits. They were sent to train guards and teach them about human rights, a concept that didn't exist within the walls of the Afghan penal system. Canadian military engineers helped oversee the building projects.
Foreign Affairs Minister Lawrence Cannon visited the centre in 2009 to highlight the Canadian government's focus on improving "police, courts and corrections." Those three aspects of the Afghan state are notoriously inept and corrupt, but within the walls of Sarpoza, the minister could point to visible progress.
Canadians gave the jail new septic systems, solar-powered lighting, a staff training room, an infirmary, an armoury, a carpentry workshop and other facilities. Painted walls replaced the raw stone surfaces; pieces of masonry used to fall on prisoners as they slept, but Canadian money had paid for smooth new ceilings.
More recent projects had included a 12-day "security self-awareness" course for female guards, and renovations to the medical unit.
Despite the deaths and damage the jailbreak three years ago inflicted, Canadian officials said the incident gave them a chance to renovate.
"It provided the opportunity to do more systematic and advanced training with Sarpoza senior management and the prison guards," Elissa Golberg, who served as Canada's top diplomat in Kandahar, said in a statement on a government website.
Roland Paris, an international affairs professor at the University of Ottawa, said the government presented the millions of dollars spent - and Canadian efforts in the field - as the continuing contribution to a model facility.
"It certainly raises serious questions about all of the money the government put into making this a model prison - and that's how it was presented," Prof. Paris said.
Even some prison officials bemoan the wasted effort, as they contemplated the empty cells in their national-security wing.
"We had good weapons, and many police, and foreign troops were nearby every night," said a senior prison official, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Last night all these things were present, all our forces, we had enough preparation for fighting. But we did not fight. Why? That is a big question."