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Doin' time in Leavenworth.

HERE are two kinds of Soldiers at the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth, Kan.--the ones with no rank or pay, and those with keys.

Handcuffs and steel doors keep the inmates confined, but it's the tenacity of corrections specialists that cramps inmates' potential for trouble.

The USDB is the only maximum-security prison within the Department of Defense. Of 440 male inmates, six are currently on death row and 10 are serving life without parole. Female felons are locked away at the Naval Consolidated Brig in San Diego, Calif.

"Unless something unusual happens, this is a very calm environment. But these are bad guys, and in several cases they committed some pretty hideous crimes. That's all we need to know to stay vigilant," said COL James W. Harrison Jr., commandant of the USDB.


Prisoners' lives are molded by the degree of supervision needed to minimize risk to others. Custody grades include installation trusty, minimum, minimum inside only, medium and maximum.

The special-housing unit is reserved for inmates who could be locked up 23 hours a day. Food is slid into cells through narrow slots, and a small window at the foot of each door lets the guards, known within the USDB as correctional specialists, chain inmates' ankles before they're escorted out for showers or fresh air.

"Every time one of these inmates moves, two or three staff members are with them. The correctional specialists actually have more contact with maximum-security inmates than those who pose fewer risks," said CPT Brian Locke, executive officer for the 705th Military Police Battalion, which staffs the prison.

Small liberties are granted to inmates who toe the line. They get TV-time and meals served from a food cart in a common area instead of on a tray in their locked cells.

Despite prospects of moving to a lower-custody grade for good behavior, some inmates remain in maximum security for most of their stay.

"Some of them just don't want to follow rules. And frankly, I think some of them are intimidated about going upstairs into the general population, where security remains tight but greater interaction occurs among inmates," Locke said. "There's a real comfort level for some inmates here, because they stay in this small area and don't have to deal with other people."

The staff's intent is for all inmates to join the general population. Medium-and minimum-security areas contain large open spaces where inmates may spend free time.

Despite strong control measures at the USDB, Harrison said inmates there are probably more relaxed than those held in the Army's short-term, regional correctional facilities.

"RCFs are much more rigid. Inmates are required to stand at parade rest while they're in line, and they move from one location to another under very tight control," he said. "But this is a long-term environment, so we have to make provisions for that."

Even so, security cameras capture every action in every cell and corner of the prison.


Prison isn't forever for most inmates. While counting off the days and years until their release, inmates can participate in as many as 13 treatment programs that focus on self-growth.

"In most cases you're not going to cure somebody who's been convicted of a child-sex crime or certain other crimes. But we can reduce the chances that inmates will go out and do the same things again after their release," Locke said.

Inmates also have access to traditional education programs and vocational-work details. Apprenticeship programs include carpentry, dental assistance, graphic design, screen printing and welding.

Work details are offered in embroidery, textile repair, graphic arts and woodwork. The state of Kansas also offers licensing in barbering, and some details allow inmates to pocket 14 to 80 cents an hour.


Mature, analytical, firm, observant--all required traits for Soldiers standing guard at the USDB.

"You can't be bigheaded. If inmates are out of hand and you get irate with them, you've put yourself in a bad situation," said PFC Michael Bruno, who's pulled duty at the prison for a year.

Reason and unarmed self-defense are guards' sole weapons, as guns aren't allowed inside prison walls.

All Soldiers assigned to the USDB receive additional training before taking charge of security. Among the lessons they learn are techniques for observing prisoner behaviors that may indicate potential problems.

"Correctional specialists must know how to de-escalate any situation an inmate could provoke, whether it's directed toward the staff or another inmate," said MSG Edward Baldwin, guard commander.

Talk in maximum security isn't always direct. To discern inmates' moods, guards usually ask open-ended questions, read body language and sometimes decipher through colorful metaphors blurted by inmates.

"Ask an inmate what his problem is and he's most likely to say you're his problem and being locked up is his problem. But that's not the underlying reason for his behavior," Baldwin said.

"Someone who is incarcerated is not going to act the same as a person who isn't. There are little nuances we show the correctional specialists to help them identify behavior changes and, ultimately, provide a safe environment for everyone," he added.

While guards aren't fill-ins for psychiatric experts, they're observant enough to provide details to mental-health specialists who arrive on site to help disturbed inmates. Compared to civilian prisons, the USDB could be among the safest places for criminals to carry out their sentences, said Harrison.

"We benefit from the fact that every inmate has had some military discipline before he arrives. With the rare exception, these aren't career criminals," he said.


Demand for confinement specialists has opened doors for military police assigned to the USDB. By year's end the 705th will convert to three deployable companies. The headquarters company will become deployable later, followed by the creation of a second deployable headquarters company.

"The plan is to be able to deploy one company at a time. The Army has discovered a greater need for military police and internment-settlement specialists," said MAJ Dawn Hilton, the battalion operations officer.

The companies won't grow in troop strength, just ability. Soldiers will train and stay polished on tasks for two missions--the one they're responsible for at the USDB, and their new mission of handling detainees in the field, Hilton said.

Soldiers currently assigned to the USDB say they're up for the challenge. Duty in the prison is stressful, but turns monotonous after awhile, said SGT Julio Reyna.

"It's hard to keep from getting bored sometimes," he said. "But everyone here knows we are doing a very important thing and helping inmates return to society as productive citizens."

Baldwin, who is serving a third tour at the USDB, agrees.

"I love the fact that I can be a role model. If I can help just one inmate return to society with different thought patterns, then I've done the right thing," he said.

The Leavenworth community is no stranger to prisons. In addition to the USDB, the city hosts a federal maximum-security penitentiary, the Lansing Correctional Facility, and a privately operated prison called the Corrections Corporation of America.

Leavenworth is so familiar with prisons that its tourism bureau borrowed "Doin' Time in Leavenworth" as the city's slogan.

The USDB has operated since 1875. Sexual offenses currently account for more than half of inmates' crimes. The last execution was conducted April 13, 1961.
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Title Annotation:Disciplinary Barracks rehabilitation management
Author:Reece, Beth
Publication:Soldiers Magazine
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2005
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