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Inside a Military Prison

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And supervision doesn’t get any more intensive than at a direct supervision facility like NAVCONBRIG Miramar. Staff members must plan each minute of every prisoner’s day.

“The most useful thing I’ve learned here is time management,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Kenneth Williams, quarters supervisor at the brig. “Everything here is on a set schedule–everything.”

They monitor everything the prisoners do–what they read, whom they talk to, when they eat, when they sleep, how they wear their uniforms and even tend to their personal hygiene.

“One of the most difficult parts of dealing with the prisoners is watching them adapt to confinement,” said Aviation Boatswain’s Mate (Handling) 1st Class Reycard Abrenilla. “It’s a unique experience.”

Staff members must be prepared to handle prisoners with convictions ranging from unauthorized absences to murder. “We teach staff how to use their minds to bring potentially violent situations to a halt, and we give them the experience to know the skills work,” said Lyles.

One of the more useful skills learned at NAVCONBRIG Miramar is verbal judo. It’s a word skill taught to help defuse potential conflict and handle aggressive people, life threatening situations and the like.

But the textbook answer of leadership enhancement isn’t the only thing attracting the Navy’s best and brightest to brig duty.

“Duty here is a lot more fun than doing paperwork and kicking boxes,” said Storekeeper 1st Class Tamara J. Seguine. “I actually told my detailer I wouldn’t reenlist unless they sent me to the brig.”

Seguine’s excitement comes from the fact that she is one of a handful of staffers on the elite Command Emergency Response Team (CERT), one of the collateral duties available to staff members.

A CERT is made up of 6 to 8 people who are specially trained to respond to riots, fires, emergencies, escape attempts, high profile prisoner escorts and to serve as a show of force.

Another unusual level of responsibility at the brig is the requirement to qualify as the command duty officer.

“On an aircraft carrier, it would take a rank of commander to be responsible for 300 people,” said Cunha, “but here at the brig, we have first class petty officers filling that role, and it’s a tougher job because all of our people are known troublemakers.”

Cunha’s staff isn’t handpicked just because they pull a tougher duty day, though. Brig staff members realize the effects of serving as role models for incarcerated service members doesn’t stop at the razor-wire-covered fences. Eventually, prisoners get released back to society, hopefully as productive citizens– the whole point of rehabilitation.

“How we treat prisoners here matters,” said Cunha. “These prisoners are eventually going to be out in our communities, at the movies, grocery stores, etc., so we have a responsibility to make sure they’re ready to be responsible citizens. To do that we have to start with the very best role models, and I have to know that each and every person who works for me is doing the right thing every day.” Cunha and his staff must be doing something right, according to Lyles.

“Prisoners call back to the brig and thank the Sailors who helped them rebuild their lives,” said Lyles.

It’s no secret how prisoners end up at Miramar. They made the worst choice of their lives. But for the staff stationed there, getting sent to the brig is the best career choice they could have made.

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