Inside Iraq's Notorious Abu Ghraib Prison

Some of the U.S. soldiers assigned to Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison admit they have a funny feeling when they first arrive. No one seems quite sure what to make of the abuse and humiliation of prisoners at the hands of U.S. military police. Thousands of photos documenting the abuse were seen across the world last year.

Today, Abu Ghraib houses 3,060 prisoners. Upon our entry, U.S. soldiers quickly told us the detainees are treated according to the Geneva Conventions. There is no torture, the system has been fixed and oversight is appropriate now, they said.

U.S. officers seemed slightly defensive at first -- as if a reporter wanted only to dwell on the scandal, which, of course, is unavoidable. We were not permitted to show the prisoners' faces, nor could we question them directly. But while we were in the company of Col. James Brown -- commander of the Military Police Brigade and a former professor of languages at West Point -- his apparent interest in their welfare granted us access.

Abu Ghraib is comprised of five different levels of detention, level five being the toughest. We saw only level one, reserved for those with good behavior.

As we walked past, many detainees worked hard to attract our attention.

Innocent Prisoners Housed With Killers

Visitors to Abu Ghraib often have a common first impression: Some of the prisoners must be innocent, and some of them want to kill us. Brown agrees it makes for ambiguous tension.

At one point during our visit, a fight broke out among the prisoners, seriously injuring one prisoner. The military police say fighting is rare, though there is tension in a prison population that has everything from common criminals to Islamic extremists.

Within a few minutes, the injured man ended up in a first-class field hospital. Last November, the hospital's American doctors and nurses treated Marines from the nearby battle of Fallujah. Today, a prisoner is treated simply as another patient, and he gets the best of what America has to offer.

Many soldiers we encountered told us that part of their mission at Abu Ghraib was to restore America's honor, if they could.

Unassuming Threat

The prison has a small, primitive schoolroom. The young Iraqi prisoner who helps to teach had been enrolled at Baghdad University. He seemed gentle, but according to his file, he was picked up with a pistol, a satellite phone and the ingredients to make a bomb.

Every case in Abu Ghraib is reviewed every six months after which some prisoners are released. Others go into the Iraqi judicial system for trial.

Americans working in the prison can't help but acknowledge the shame of the scandal. Maj. John Hussey said that working at the prison has been surreal.

"When I speak to my soldiers I always tell them that you can't disgrace this uniform -- the veterans of yesteryear are looking at you," he said. "And you know we can't have another scandal. It would be such a black image. And I keep emphasizing that every time I am down in the camp talking to young American soldiers. And if we do this right, then maybe my young son and their young children won't have to come back here. And that is very important."

Peter Jennings filed this report for "World News Tonight."