Military Justice Review Group-Part 1-UCMJ

Thus begins a review of the Military Justice Review Group (MJRG) report Part 1.  My comments will be in no particular order.

Confinement to Bread & Water

Currently, a person can be confined for up to three days on bread and water rations, under certain circumstances.  The MJRG recommends removing this as a punishment.  They do not say why, other than to suggest that:

This proposal reflects confidence in the ability of commanders in a modern era to administer effective discipline through the utilization of the wide range of punishments otherwise available under Article 15 and other non-punitive measures.

My experience with bread and water as a punishment:

it can be an effective rehabilitative tool with some defaulters; but

it would likely be of no significant rehabilitative effect for the vast majority of defaulters.

As the command judge advocate in USS JOHN F. KENNEDY, I observed the imposition and effects of bread and water on the occasional defaulter as a punishment for almost three years.

We had an onboard Brig, but could only use it while underway.  That meant defaulters given bread and water while we were pier side had to be transported to the base Brig.  By the time the defaulter arrived at the Brig and by the time the Brig released the defaulter (usually before their going home time on the “third” day), the defaulter might have done one day of actual bread and water.  Not effective and administratively and logistically burdensome–so we didn’t use it while pier side.

When at sea the CO did at times assign bread and water as a Mast punishment.  However, it was used sparingly for those who needed a short kick in the backside to get them straight.  It was considered a remedial tool rather than a punishment.  If the defaulter’s chain of command thought the person worth saving, a short visit to the Brig might be enough to reorient the person–and it often was sufficient.

To ensure the full three days of confinement, we would hold Mast very early in the AM, sometimes shortly after midnight.  The defaulter would then be escorted to Medical several decks below the bridge for an appropriate physical examination, and assuming the person to be fit for bread and water, they’d be escorted several more decks below into the bowels of the ship to the Brig.  Once there, they received one loaf of sliced bread per day and as much water as desired.  They were of course constantly monitored for adverse physical reactions.

An interesting observation is that by the second day the defaulter stopped eating the bread.  That’s the effect of bread and water–they’d become full.