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United States Disciplinary Barracks

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United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB)
USDB Front.gif
United States Disciplinary Barracks is located in Kansas
United States Disciplinary Barracks
Location in Kansas
LocationFort Leavenworth, Kansas, U.S.
Coordinates39°22′42″N 94°56′07″W / 39.37833°N 94.93528°W / 39.37833; -94.93528[1]
Security classMinimum-maximum security, Level III (Maximum Security)
Opened1874, rebuilt in 2002
Managed byUnited States Army Corrections Command
DirectorCommandant: Colonel Caroline Horton

The United States Disciplinary Barracks (USDB) colloquially known as Leavenworth, is a military correctional facility[2] located on Fort Leavenworth, a United States Army post in Kansas.

It is one of three major prisons built on Fort Leavenworth property, the others being the federal civilian United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth, four miles (6 km) to the south, and the military Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility, which opened on 5 October 2010.[3]

It reports to the United States Army Corrections Command and its commandant usually holds the rank of colonel.

The USDB is the U.S. military's only maximum-security facility that houses male service members convicted at court-martial for violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Only enlisted prisoners with sentences over ten years, commissioned officers, and prisoners convicted of offenses related to national security are confined to the USDB. Enlisted prisoners with sentences under ten years are confined in smaller facilities, such as the nearby Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility or the Naval Consolidated Brig at Chesapeake, Virginia. Corrections personnel at the facility are Army Corrections Specialists (MOS 31E) trained at the U.S. Army Military Police school located at Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri, as well as Marine and Air Force corrections personnel.

Female prisoners from all branches of the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) are typically incarcerated in the Naval Consolidated Brig, Miramar instead of the USDB.[4]

First facility

Main gateway into the now-demolished 1877 disciplinary barracks (in 2007). The building now has other uses, including a base eatery.

Originally known as the United States Military Prison, the USDB was established by Act of Congress in 1874. Prisoners were used for the bulk of the construction, which began in 1875 and was completed in 1921. The facility was able to house up to 1,500 prisoners. From 1895 until 1903, prisoners from the USDB were used to construct the nearby United States Penitentiary, Leavenworth.[5]

The original 19th century USDB was dubbed "The Castle" or "Little Top" due to its size and location (c.1977).

The original USDB followed the Pennsylvania plan modeling on a layout of the Eastern State Penitentiary where cell blocks radiated out from a central structure. Individual cells were relatively isolated. In contrast, the civilian prison, modeled on the Auburn Correctional Facility in New York, reflected a newer concept where prisoners were housed in a large rectangular building where there was a certain amount of communal living.[6] The site covered 12 acres (4.9 ha) with walls from 16 to 41 feet (4.9 to 12.5 m) high.[7]

The original USDB was Fort Leavenworth's biggest and tallest building sited at the corner of McPherson Avenue and Scott Avenue on bluffs above the Missouri River (39°21′36.50″N 94°55′0.53″W / 39.3601389°N 94.9168139°W / 39.3601389; -94.9168139 (Location of the original USDBP, Fort Leavenworth)). The old domed building was nicknamed "Little Top" in contrast to the domed federal prison 2+12 miles (4.0 km) south which was nicknamed the "Big Top".[8]

During World War I, two brothers named Joseph and Michael Hofer, died at Fort Leavenworth in 1918 after refusing to enlist or wear uniforms after they were drafted under the Selective Service Act of 1917. The pair of conscientious objectors, who were Christian Hutterites, were held in solitary confinement, beaten, and starved to death.[9]

In 1988 the prison had 1,450 prisoners, including 21 women. This included 42 officers, the highest ranking being a lieutenant colonel.[10] By 2014, all female prisoners have been moved to NAVCONBRIG Miramar.[4] That same year, an inmate named David Newman escaped after hiding in Pope Hall while on Wood Shop detail. He assembled a ladder, kicked out a window and climbed over the wall between Towers 3 and 4. He was captured four days later in Kansas City. Following the escape, bars were placed on the windows of all buildings within the complex and interior chain link with razor wire top guard was placed between the buildings and the exterior stone walls.[11] Shortly before the detention barracks closed more than 300 inmates refused lockdown on 12 May 1995. The uprising was put down by 150 correction officers.[12]

In 2002, Gail Dillon of Airman magazine wrote of the old detention barracks:

A visitor would immediately notice the medieval ambiance of this institution – the well-worn native stone and brick walls constructed by long-forgotten inmates when 'hard labor' meant exactly that – have witnessed thousands of inmates' prayers, curses, and pleas over the past 128 years" and that entering the facility was "like stepping back in time or suddenly being part of a kitschy movie set about a prison bust.[13]

In late the 1990s, work began on a new purpose-built military detention center on the site of the former USDB Farm Colony. The largest buildings of the original barracks ("The Castle") were torn down in 2004. The walls and ten of the buildings in the original location—including Pope Hall—have been converted or are in the process of being converted to other uses at Fort Leavenworth. The prison's original commandant's house still remains.[14]

Current facility

United States Disciplinary Barracks in December 2008

The new state-of-the-art, 515-bed, disciplinary barrack, which cost $67.8 million ($94 million in 2019 dollars), became operational in September 2002. It was built about a mile north of the original USDB at Fort Leavenworth. The new 51 acres (210,000 m2) site is enclosed by two separate 14-foot (4.3 m) high fences. There are three housing units, each of which can accommodate up to 142 prisoners. The units, described as "pods", are two-tiered triangular shaped domiciles.[15] The cells in the new facility have solid doors and a window. There are no bars. The new facility is said to be much quieter than the old one and is preferred by inmates.[16] Colonel Colleen L. McGuire, the first female commandant of the USDB, said in 2002 that the new facility is "much more efficient in design and layout – much brighter and lighter."[17]

In 2009, the Barracks, along with the Standish Maximum Correctional Facility in Michigan, were being considered for relocation of 220 prisoners from the Guantanamo Bay detention camp. Kansas officials, including both U.S. Senators, objected to the transfer; Pat Roberts stated that the transfer would require 2,000 privately owned acres around the fort to be acquired through the use of eminent domain to establish a stand-off zone because the prison is on the perimeter of the fort.[18]

Prison cell

The new prison reflects current prison design of smaller low-rise separate buildings where prisoners can be more easily isolated from the general population.[6] In 2012 the facility received a 100% rating and the accolades from an assessment team from the American Correctional Association (ACA) (who have been auditing the sites since 1988). Three independent evaluators visited the prison facilities to check on more than 500 standards, including mental health services, safety issues, and other aspects of the facility related to humane treatment of inmates. The USDB received a top rating in all of the standards despite having a portion of its staffing deployed to Iraq.[19]

The USDB is staffed by the 15th Military Police Brigade. Many soldiers have a designated military occupational specialty 31E, corrections specialists. They are under Army Corrections Command, which was activated in Washington, D.C. in 2007 under the Provost Marshal General.[20]

In August 2010, two inmates overpowered an MP guard in the Special Housing Unit. They then were joined by 11 others. The guard was freed by a special tactics unit which retook control of the Special Housing Unit. Several inmates and one rescuer sustained non-life-threatening injuries in the incident. This was the first such incident in the new prison.[12]


Headstone of a German prisoner at the cemetery

Deceased prisoners who are not claimed by their family members are buried near the original USDB. There are 300 graves dating from approximately 1894 to 1957, 56 of which are unmarked and 14 that belong to German prisoners of war executed for the murder of fellow POWs. The executions were carried out in 1945, in three groups: five on 10 July, two on 14 July, and seven on 25 August.[21]

Capital punishment

The USDB houses the U.S. military's male death row inmates. Since 1945, there have been 21 executions at the USDB, including 14 German prisoners of war executed in 1945 for murder.[22] The last execution by the U.S. Military was the hanging of Army PFC John A. Bennett, on 13 April 1961, for the rape and attempted murder of an 11-year-old Austrian girl.[23] Bennett's execution took place four years after it was approved by President Dwight D. Eisenhower and then his successor President John F. Kennedy. Bennett applied to Kennedy for a Stay of Execution after an appeal to him from the Austrian victim and her parents for the African American soldier. This was promptly denied by the White House.[24]

All executions at the USDB thus far have been by hanging, but lethal injection has been specified as the military's current mode of execution. As of 11 July 2018, there are four inmates on death row at the USDB, the most recent addition being Nidal Hasan.

The execution of Army PVT Ronald A. Gray, who has been on military death row since 1988, was approved by President George W. Bush on 28 July 2008. Gray was convicted of the rape, two murders and an attempted murder of three women, two of them Army soldiers and the third a civilian taxi driver whose body was found on the post at Fort Bragg.[25] On 26 November 2008, a federal judge granted Gray a stay of execution to allow time for further appeals.[26]

Within the prison, death row is located in an isolated corridor away from other inmates.[27]

Notable inmates


Death row

Non-death row

  • Dwight J. Loving – Robbed and murdered two cab drivers in 1988 while stationed at Fort Hood.[31] Originally sentenced to death, Loving's death sentence was commuted to life imprisonment by President Barack Obama on 17 January 2017.[32]
  • Robert Bales – Killed 16 Afghan civilians (including nine children) and wounded six others in Afghanistan during the Kandahar massacre. Bales agreed to a plea deal during his court-martial in order to avoid a death sentence, and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.[33]


  • Michael Behenna – Convicted of killing Iraqi prisoner Ali Mansur Mohamed while deployed to Iraq in 2008. Behenna was sentenced to 15 years of confinement, and was granted parole on 14 March 2014, after serving five years of his sentence. President Donald Trump granted him a full pardon on 6 May 2019.[34]
  • William Calley – Convicted for his part in the My Lai Massacre.[35] Originally given a life sentence, President Richard Nixon ordered the Army to transfer him from Fort Leavenworth to house arrest in Fort Benning one day after he was sentenced.
  • Charles Graner – Convicted of prisoner abuse in connection with the 2003–2004 Abu Ghraib torture and prisoner abuse scandal. Graner was sentenced to ten years of confinement, and was released on parole after serving six and a half years of his sentence.[36]
  • Clint Lorance – While commanding a combat patrol during a 2012 deployment in Afghanistan, the first lieutenant ordered one of his soldiers to shoot three Afghan men who had approached at a high speed on a motorcycle. Two of the men died and one escaped. He was also convicted of threatening local Afghans and obstruction of justice.[37] Lorance was sentenced to 20 years of confinement.[38] President Donald Trump granted him clemency on 15 November 2019, and he was released from confinement the same day.[39]
  • Chelsea Manning[40] – Unlawfully uploaded and disseminated to the website WikiLeaks hundreds of thousands of classified diplomatic cables and military files, and a video of an Apache helicopter killing 12 civilians in Baghdad in 2007. Manning was sentenced to 35 years of confinement, and announced that she is a transgender woman after her sentencing.[41] President Barack Obama commuted Manning's sentence on 17 January 2017,[42] resulting in her release from the facility on 17 May 2017.[43]
  • Derrick Miller - Convicted of the premeditated murder of an Afghan civilian during a battlefield interrogation. Originally given a life sentence, he received support from U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert, which resulted in the Army Clemency and Parole Board reviewing his sentence and reducing it to 20 years, making him eligible for parole. Miller was released on 20 May 2019, after serving eight years of his reduced sentence.[44]
  • Jonathan Wells – Author who wrote Icons of Evolution. Previously drafted into the Army for two years during the Vietnam War, he publicly refused to report for Reserve duty while attending college at the University of California, Berkeley. Wells was sentenced to 18 months of confinement.[45]

See also


  1. ^ U.S. Geological Survey Geographic Names Information System: United States Disciplinary Barracks
  2. ^ U.S.D.B Home - 15 December 2013
  3. ^ Army Corrections Command stands up – Fort Leavenworth Lamp -19 October 2007
  4. ^ a b Powers, Rod. "Inside a Military Prison". Retrieved 27 January 2014. Additionally, all female prisoners within DOD serve their time at NAVCONBRIG Miramar to better facilitate the rehabilitative process.
  5. ^ Named for Henry Leavenworth
  6. ^ a b The U.S. Federal Prison System by Mary F. (Francesca) Bosworth – Sage Publications, Inc; 1st edition (15 July 2002) ISBN 0-7619-2304-7
  7. ^ Saga of Fort Leavenworth Castle, Donald Jay Olsen, page 10.
  8. ^ Hewes, Carolyn. "Theodore C. Link, FAIA (1850–1923)". Landmarks Association of St. Louis Inc. Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  9. ^ Hostetler, John Andrew (2002). The Hutterites in North America. Brooks/Cole.
  10. ^ "Ft. Leavenworth's Military Inmates Get Grim Home Where Discipline Is Order of Day." Los Angeles Times. 4 December 1988. Retrieved on 10 July 2016.
  11. ^ "The Vanguard: A Publication of the Army Corrections Command" (PDF). 17 June 2009. p. 4.
  12. ^ a b Archived 15 July 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  13. ^ Dillon, Gail (2002–10). "Crime and punishment: inside Fort Leavenworth's historic U.S. Disciplinary Barracks." Airman, November 2002. 1. Retrieved on 2010-03-06 from
  14. ^ ACT_moves to new digs in old USDB – Fort Leavenworth Lamp – 9 July 2009
  15. ^ Title: Part C – The United States Disciplinary Barracks
  16. ^ " Article on the USDB".
  17. ^ Dillon, Gail. "Crime and punishment: inside Fort Leavenwoth's historic U.S. Disciplinary Barracks." Airman. November 2002. 2. Retrieved on 6 March 2010.
  18. ^ Gitmo detainees should not come to Leavenworth – Pat Roberts – Kansas City Star – 8 August 2009
  19. ^ Fort Leavenworth Lamp newspaper article "JCRF, USDB attain 100 percent scores for accreditations" 15 March 2012
  20. ^ [1]
  21. ^ Fort Leavenworth Military Prison Cemetery from
  22. ^ List of U.S. Military Executions Archived 8 August 2008 at the Wayback Machine from the Death Penalty information Center
  23. ^ Soldier dies on the gallows for attack on small child
  24. ^ "Archives".
  25. ^ a b Execution by Military Is Approved by President
  26. ^ First Military Execution in 50 Years Delayed
  27. ^ Goldman, Russell. "Fort Hood Shooter Could Join 5 Others on Death Row." ABC News. 13 November 2009. 1. Retrieved on 21 October 2010.
  28. ^ "Army Soldier Is Convicted in Attack on Fellow Troops". Washington Post. 22 April 2005. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  29. ^ "Hasan arrives at U.S. Disciplinary Barracks". WTVM. 30 August 2013. Archived from the original on 7 May 2019. Retrieved 19 November 2020.
  30. ^ Schmidle, Nicholas (7 November 2011). "Three Trials for Murder". The New Yorker. Archived from the original on 8 November 2020. Retrieved 15 November 2020.
  31. ^ "Soldier sentenced to death for killing two cab drivers". UPI. 4 April 1989. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  32. ^ Sink, Justin; Pettypiece, Shannon (17 January 2017). "Obama Commutes Chelsea Manning's Prison Sentence for Leak". Bloomberg Politics. Retrieved 9 July 2017.
  33. ^ "Bales arrives at USDB"
  34. ^ "Trump pardons ex-Army lieutenant convicted of killing suspected Al Qaeda terrorist in 2009". 6 May 2019.
  35. ^ "The Long Tan Myth". Retrieved 24 February 2020.
  36. ^ CNN Wire Staff. "Notorious Abu Ghraib guard released from prison." CNN. 6 August 2011. Retrieved on 6 August 2011.
  37. ^ writer, John Ramsey Staff. "Army first lieutenant found guilty of murder, other charges for actions in Afghanistan". The Fayetteville Observer. Retrieved 9 February 2018.
  38. ^ "Conviction stands for LT convicted in Afghan slayings". 5 January 2015.
  39. ^ "Army 1st Lt. Clint Lorance released from Leavenworth prison after Trump grants clemency". 16 November 2019.
  40. ^ Londoño, Ernesto. "Convicted leaker Bradley Manning changes legal name to Chelsea Elizabeth Manning". The Washington Post. Retrieved 27 April 2014.
  41. ^ Savage, Charlie (13 January 2017). "Chelsea Manning Describes Bleak Life in a Men's Prison". The New York Times. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  42. ^ Savage, Charlie. "Obama Commutes Bulk of Chelsea Manning's Sentence". The New York Times. Retrieved 17 January 2017.
  43. ^ "Chelsea Manning: Wikileaks source celebrates 'first steps of freedom'". BBC. 17 May 2017. Retrieved 28 April 2018.
  44. ^ Hinneburg, Cheryl (12 April 2019). "US Army Nat'l Guardsman gets parole after being sentenced to life for murder". American Military News.
  45. ^ Wells, Jonathan (August 2006). The Disrespectful Guide to Darwinism and Intelligent Design. Regnery Publishing. ISBN 978-1-59698-013-6.

External links