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Military Correctional System: An Overview

NCJ Number
Corrections Today Volume: 65 Issue: 7 Dated: December 2003 Pages: 58-61
David K. Haasenritter
Date Published
December 2003
4 pages
This article discusses the history and attributes of the military correctional system.
The military correctional system is organized in a three-tiered system consisting of 59 facilities designed to confine inmates based on sentence length, geographical location, and treatment programs. Level 1 is the lowest tier in the correctional system and is used to confine pretrial and post-trial inmates with sentences of up to 1 year. Level 2 is the middle tier that confines pretrial and post-trial inmates sentenced up to 7 years. The majority of military inmates are confined in Level 2 facilities. Educational, vocational, and mental health treatment programs are available at these facilities. The United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) at Fort Leavenworth is the only facility in the third and highest tier of the military correctional system and is the only Department of Defense maximum-security confinement facility. The military operates 11 overseas facilities that are not classified in the three-tiered system. The first military prison was established in 1875. Today’s military inmates are very different from those of yesteryear. The most commonly committed offense by military inmates in 2002 was rape, followed by drug possession and then drug trafficking. The most common property offense was larceny. At year-end 2002, the average military inmate was male, White, a high school graduate, most likely committed a crime against a person, and was released from military prisons at the end of his sentence. Before the Gulf War, the most frequent offense committed during previous wars was desertion. In response, an effort was made to retrain as many inmates as possible to return to duty during and/or after they had served their sentence. The military correctional system has been forward thinking, developing innovative programs, such as vocational training and prison alternatives (boot camp), which were later adapted in civilian correctional systems. Those released from military prisons under supervision have a lower recidivism rate than the national average. The military correctional system is currently under scrutiny for divestiture and privatization, and its future is uncertain. 6 references