Skip to content

What is Military Prison Like? An In-Depth Look Behind Bars

Military prisons, also known as confinement facilities or brigs, house service members who have been court-martialed and sentenced to incarceration. These facilities operate under the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) and are designed to punish criminals while promoting discipline and rehabilitation.

This comprehensive guide will examine various aspects of life inside a military prison. It covers daily routines, privileges, work programs, disciplinary measures, rehabilitation services, and more. Whether you’re a convicted service member or just curious, read on for an inside look at doing time in a military brig.

Overview of Military Confinement Facilities

The United States military operates several confinement facilities both in the U.S. and abroad. The largest is the United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Other major facilities include the Naval Consolidated Brig in Charleston, South Carolina, and the Northwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington.

Each branch of the armed forces maintains its own corrections system separately from federal and state prisons. Military prisons house service members from all branches. The length of sentences ranges from a few months to life in prison. Death row prisoners are housed at the USDB.

In addition to confinement facilities in the U.S., several smaller brigs operate near major military bases worldwide. These house prisoners with sentences under five years. Common locations include Japan, Germany, and South Korea.

Daily Routine in a Military Prison

Inmates in military prisons generally wake up between 5-6 AM. The day begins with cleaning their cell, personal hygiene, and dressing in their uniform. Breakfast is served around 7 AM.

The bulk of the morning is spent at work assignments such as maintenance, food service, clerical work, or manufacturing. Lunch takes place around 11:30 AM before returning to work. The workday ends around 4 PM.

After work, inmates have free time for recreation, TV, reading, or socializing with other prisoners. Dinner is served around 5 PM. The day winds down with more leisure time, cell cleaning, personal time, and lights out around 10 PM.

Throughout the day, prisoners must follow strict military protocols for behavior, speech, and hygiene. Daily schedules can vary slightly by facility. Maximum security prisons have more restrictive routines. But in general, discipline and structure define the rhythm of life in a military brig.

Military Prison Uniform and Grooming Standards

Inmates in military correctional facilities must wear uniforms and adhere to strict grooming protocols. The standard uniform consists of plain green pants, shirt, and cap. Uniforms are typically worn with black boots or shoes.

Undergarments must be white or light gray. Belts are generally not permitted as a suicide prevention measure. Specific uniform regulations can vary between men’s and women’s facilities. Death row prisoners may wear different uniforms.

See also  What Happens in Female Prisons? Life Behind Bars

Grooming standards forbid beards, long hair, and unconventional hairstyles among male inmates. Mustaches are sometimes allowed if neatly trimmed. Female prisoners have regulated standards for hair length, styles, and hair accessories.

Tattoos and body piercings are prohibited. Each facility provides guidelines for personal hygiene, oral care, and other grooming requirements. Failure to comply with uniform and grooming rules results in disciplinary action.

Housing and Cell Conditions

Cell layouts and housing arrangements vary between military prisons. Lower security facilities may use open bay dormitories housing dozens of inmates. Higher security units tend to use one or two-person locked cells.

Like civilian prisons, military confinement facilities range from minimum to maximum security. Minimum security inmates enjoy the most privileges and comfortable cell conditions. Maximum security prisoners are confined to their cells for 22-23 hours per day.

Cells are sparse containing metal bunk beds, combined toilet/sink fixtures, and little else. Some common cell amenities include:

  • Desk and stool
  • Shelves for personal items
  • Bulletin boards
  • Lockers or wall lockers
  • Small cabinets
  • Light fixtures

Cell sizes average around 80-100 square feet. Windows often have reinforced glass and security bars or screens. Doors contain slots for food trays and observation. Maximum security cells have additional barriers and security measures. Confinement facilities undergo regular maintenance and cleaning.

Privileges and Restrictions

Military prisoners can earn privileges through good behavior and progression in their confinement program. Examples of typical privileges by program level include:

Minimum Security:

  • Expanded visitation
  • Weekend movie nights
  • Game and recreation rooms
  • Less restrictive uniform codes
  • Televisions and media devices in common areas

Medium Security:

  • Regular visitation
  • Library and classroom access
  • Televisions in cells
  • Limited base privileges

Maximum Security:

  • Restricted visitation
  • Strict cell confinement
  • No televisions or media devices
  • Tight controls on movement and interactions

Higher security inmates have televisions and personal devices prohibited. Reading material is restricted. Privileges can be taken away for disciplinary infractions. Maximum security prisoners face the strictest limitations on their movements and freedoms.

Work Programs and Vocational Training

One key part of military incarceration focuses on work and vocational skills. After a short orientation period, all prisoners are assigned mandatory work details. Typical prison jobs include:

  • Food service
  • Janitorial and ground maintenance
  • Mechanical and electrical maintenance
  • Clerical and administrative
  • barbershop
  • Manufacturing and fabrication
  • Construction and repairs

Inmates work around 6 hours per day on their assigned details. Work provides a way to keep prisoners active and productive while incarcerated. Well-behaved inmates can qualify for vocational training in trades like welding, mechanics, and computer technology.

These programs give them marketable skills for finding employment after release. Work satisfaction can also lead to earlier parole. Refusing work assignments results in disciplinary action. Overall, work significantly shapes the daily routine in a military prison.

Rehabilitation and Education Programs

In addition to work, military confinement facilities emphasize rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism. Prisoners can participate in various education and personal development programs, including:

  • Substance abuse counseling – Many prisoners benefit from drug and alcohol rehabilitation.
  • Anger management – Controlling emotions and resolving conflicts non-violently.
  • Parenting classes – Learning to be better parents and rebuild families.
  • Life skills – Basic instructions on finances, healthcare, social skills, literacy, and more.
  • Adult education – Improving general education levels and earning high school equivalency.
  • College courses – Limited partnerships with universities for distance learning.
  • Relationship counseling – Improving marriages and relationships.
  • Mental health counseling – Treatment for diagnosed psychiatric or psychological disorders.
  • Religious services – Access to clergy, religious materials, and counseling.
See also  How Much Do Prison Counselors Make?

These programs aim to treat underlying issues, enrich lives, and prepare for civilian re-entry after release. Qualifying for rehabilitation services provides incentives like privileges, parole, and transfer to minimum security.

Disciplinary Measures in Military Prisons

The military corrections system follows a progressive disciplinary model to encourage compliance with rules. If inmates follow the regulations, they earn privileges and parole eligibility.

However, prisoners who break rules face the following consequences:

  • Loss of privileges – For minor infractions like disrespect or being out of uniform. Televisions, recreation time, and other privileges are taken away.
  • Extra duty – Disciplinary action may result in extra work details after normal work hours such as cleaning, labor, or marching drills.
  • Cell restriction – Confined to cell for 23 hours per day with loss of privileges. Minimum of one month.
  • Disciplinary segregation – Isolation in a special housing unit apart from the general population. Up to one year for severe offenses.
  • ** reduction in rank** – For serious infractions, a prisoner’s rank may be reduced as additional punishment.
  • Loss of good conduct time – Sets back parole eligibility.
  • Prosecution – New charges under UCMJ for major offenses like assault, rioting, or possession of contraband. May add years to a sentence.

Disciplinary measures aim to correct bad behavior and maintain order. Repeat or serious offenses result in harsher punishment. Protecting staff and other inmates is the top priority.

Protective Custody and Special Housing

For various reasons, some prisoners require protection or isolation from the general population:

  • New prisoners – Kept separate during initial entry period for orientation and evaluation.
  • Vulnerable inmates – Small, young, or at-risk of victimization may be kept in safer units.
  • Medical isolation – Prisoners with contagious diseases are quarantined from others.
  • Mental health – Inmates with acute psychiatric disorders receive special housing and care.
  • Disciplinary segregation – Those undergoing punishment for infractions are isolated.
  • Death row – Highly dangerous inmates await execution on death row. Special protocols apply.

Protective custody inmates typically face restrictions on privileges compared to general population prisoners. Their movements, activities, and interactions are severely limited for safety and security.

Parole and Release from Military Prisons

Well-behaved prisoners can earn early release on parole for good conduct and participation in rehabilitation programs:

  • Each sentence over one year has a minimum parole eligibility date.
  • Eligible inmates undergo parole hearings before military clemency boards.
  • Factors like behavior, rehabilitation efforts, risk assessments, and support systems are considered.
  • Low and minimum security prisoners are most likely to be granted parole.
  • Final approval depends on the prisoner’s service branch and the confinement facility.
  • Typical parole periods range from 6 months to 5 years before full release.
  • Parolees must comply with supervision conditions like drug tests, behavior restrictions, and reporting requirements.
  • Violations may result in re-incarceration.

Military prisoners may also qualify for executive clemency and conditional release in some cases. These are rarely granted pardons or commutations.

Inmates denied parole or completing their full sentence are released back into civilian life. Their conditions may include supervision, treatment, or other restrictions. Sex offenders face additional limitations.

Overall, parole provides incentives for good conduct and rehabilitation in military prisons. It also eases post-release transition to reduce recidivism rates.

See also  How Many Prisoners Are In Colorado?

Key Takeaways: The Realities of Life in a Military Prison

  • Daily life is highly structured with strict rules and military discipline.
  • Uniforms, grooming, and living conditions lack individuality and comforts.
  • Privileges are earned through good behavior and progression in rehabilitation programs.
  • Work programs aim to impart vocational skills for post-release employment.
  • Rehabilitation services address underlying issues like substance abuse, education, and mental health.
  • Progressive disciplinary system uses escalating punishments to correct infractions.
  • Protective custody separates vulnerable inmates or disciplinary cases from the general population.
  • Parole incentives promote rehabilitation but require post-release supervision.

While difficult, military prison aims to punish crime while reforming individuals into law-abiding citizens. Performance in confinement and participation in programs directly impacts parole eligibility and the ability to transition back into civilian life. At its best, the experience can lead to meaningful personal growth and a second chance.

Frequently Asked Questions About Military Prisons

How are military prisons different than civilian ones?

Military prisons function under the Uniform Code of Military Justice rather than civilian laws. They house service members exclusively and focus on military discipline. Prisoners adhere to strict grooming and uniform standards based on regulations. The daily routine follows a structured military schedule. Programs aim to improve vocational skills and rehabilitation instead of punishment alone.

What are brigs and confinement facilities?

Brigs are regional military prisons that house inmates serving shorter sentences. Longer-term confinement facilities include the United States Disciplinary Barracks. Together, brigs and confinement facilities make up the military corrections system.

What are the types of military prisons?

There are three main security level classifications:

  • Minimum security – For well-behaved inmates with minor offenses. The most privileges.
  • Medium security – A moderate environment for typical prisoners.
  • Maximum security – Highly controlled isolation for the most dangerous inmates.

Some facilities have areas for all security levels.

Can you get parole from a military prison?

Yes, inmates can apply for early release on parole after serving a minimum portion of their sentence, usually one third. Parole may be granted for good conduct and participating in rehabilitative programs. If denied parole, prisoners must complete their full sentence.

Where do death row military prisoners get executed?

The U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth hosts the military’s death row. After exhausting all appeals, executions are carried out by lethal injection. The last military execution was in 1961.

Do military prisoners get dishonorable discharges?

Courts-martial can sentence inmates to a dishonorable discharge. This discharges them from the military in shame as convicted felons. It results in a loss of benefits and bars future service.

Can military prisoners earn college degrees while incarcerated?

Some facilities offer inmates limited opportunities to earn associate or bachelor’s degrees online through partnerships with universities. College courses provide positive goals for rehabilitation.

How often can inmates receive visitors?

Visitation policies vary by prison security levels. Minimum security may allow weekend visitation. Medium and maximum security typically permit visits on weekends and holidays for a few hours at a time.

What happens when a military prisoner is released?

The military provides civilian clothing, travel funds, and a little money on release. Prisoners are discharged back into the civilian world. Parolees must comply with supervision conditions. Support services are limited, making re-entry challenging.

Share this post on social

About us

We are dedicated to exploring the intricacies of prison life and justice reform through firsthand experiences and expert insights.

See also  What Happens in Female Prisons? Life Behind Bars

Welcome to ‘Prison Inside,’ a blog dedicated to shedding light on the often hidden and misunderstood world within correctional facilities. Through firsthand accounts, personal narratives, and insightful reflections, we delve into the lives of those who find themselves behind bars, offering a unique perspective on the challenges, triumphs, and transformations that unfold within the confines of these walls.

See also  What Happens in Female Prisons? Life Behind Bars