Peter Grande/USDB Historian
On May 5, 1984, former President Ronald Regan proclaimed National Correctional Officers Week in the first week of May to recognize and celebrate the contributions of correctional officers who have the difficult and dangerous assignment of ensuring the custody, safety and well-being of those incarcerated in the nation’s prisons and jails.
The 15th Military Police Brigade exercises mission command over the Military Correctional Complex, which includes the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks and the Midwest Joint Regional Correctional Facility. The USDB is the Department of Defense’s only maximum custody facility for felony inmates sentenced to more than 10 years to confinement up to life without parole and those sentenced to death. The MWJRCF is the Army’s only operational level II facility and confines prisoners pending trial and inmates with sentences up to 10 years.
The correctional officers working in these facilities are Army soldiers with the military police Military Occupational Skill 31E (formally 95C) and Marines with the primary MOS 5831. These military correctional noncommissioned officers and correctional specialists perform the same skill sets as their civilian counterparts in federal and state correctional facilities. Additionally, the experiential learning opportunities within the MCC facilities serve to hone the unique skill set that correctional officers need to perform detainee operations in a theater of war.
The public rarely hears anything positive about prisons or correctional officers. The media usually degrades correctional officers by referring to them as “guards.” The term “guards” alludes to someone who watches an inanimate object. Corrections is a people business, and correctional officers are constantly supervising, listening, watching, counseling and evaluating inmates.
Correctional officers are charged with providing public safety by ensuring the security, custody and control of the inmates. They have to deal daily with military prisoners, who through their anti-social behavior were convicted of violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
These correctional officers are men and women who work their wartime mission every day. They operate behind several layers of chain-link fences, steel doors and solid concrete surrounded by inmates convicted of murder, assault and sexual offenses. Unlike the military police who patrol the Fort Leavenworth community armed with a weapon for their safety, the brave correctional officers are unarmed. They are equipped with a radio, personal duress alarm and their interpersonal communicative skills.
They work shifts that rotate about every three months. They are constantly aware when off duty that they could be recalled in case of an emergency. They work closely with inmates with risk of communicative diseases, such as during the COVID-19 pandemic. They work in a world where the slightest privilege is an important concern to the inmates. They work under the constant potential of being assaulted and injured.
The MCC correctional officers are dedicated professionals. They treat inmates fairly, humanely and accord them the same respect and dignity as any member of the U.S. Armed Forces. They perform their duties on a “corrective, rather than punitive” command philosophy. They create an environment with the MCC to assist inmates in changing their behavior to become productive members of the military or civilian society.
Correctional officers deserve the Fort Leavenworth community’s appreciation.