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Long-Term Corrections in the Department of Defense: The Bureaucracy and a Savings Unrealized

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In November 1989, after receiving a General Accounting Office GAO report highlighting excess unoccupied bed space in military corrections facilities, the Secretary of Defense directed the army to lead the Services in developing recommendations to achieve greater efficiency in the conduct of military corrections operations. In the ensuing months, a Joint Working Group JWG composed of corrections and legal representatives of the four military Services, deliberated a myriad of alternatives designed to eliminate the excess and to reduce the overall cost of maintaining the system. In the end, however, the alternative recommended in the foal report to the Secretary, represented not the most cost-effective, reasoned solution, but instead, a negotiated best we can get agreement based upon the parochialisms and self-interests of the bureaucratic institutions charged with the analysis. Given those interests, and an understanding of how organizations contribute to the policy-making process as described by Morton H. Halperin, the outcome was predictable. The authority to incarcerate military offenders rests in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. The original purpose of military confinement was to provide unit commanders with a deterrent for such offenses as AWOL Absent Without Leave, petty larceny, and other violations of the Articles of War Confinement was seen as an alternative to more cruel punishments such as whipping. Until 1870, long-term military prisoners served their sentences in state facilities. Those with short sentences and those convicted of purely military crimes were confined in local installation stockades. However, because of the deplorable conditions and disparity of treatment . the Army was able to secure legislation authorizing the establishment of a military prison at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, in 1870.

Subject Categories:

  • Economics and Cost Analysis
  • Government and Political Science
  • Military Forces and Organizations
  • Defense Systems

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