Where Does the Naval Consolidated Brig at Miramar (NCBM) Rank Against the Most Barbaric Prisons of the World?

Aerial view of the Naval Consolidated Brig Miramar

The thought of going to any prison is horrifying enough to deter most sane people from ever stepping on the wrong side of the law – being deprived of your freedom, being unable to see loved ones, damaging your future employment prospects, not to mention running the risk of all kinds of assault by the hardened criminals dwelling within, are all reason enough to rightly fear being caged within four walls. There are some prisons operating in the world today that makes our military prisons look like a holiday camp. The Navy brig in Miramar, California doesn’t come anywhere close to the barbarism of other prisons in the world, but it does have problems.

In case you wanted to know, the top five most barbaric prisons in the world are as follows…

  1. Camp #22 in North Korea
  2. Gitarama Central Prison, Rwanda (now renamed: Muhanga Prison)
  3. Gldani Prison, Tbilisi, Georgia
  4. La Sabaneta Prison, Venezuela
  5. Black Dolphin Prison, Russia
Camp 22 in North Korea. People imprisoned there have the life expectancy of a Kleenex tissue (meaning, not very long)

We begin by saying that you can tell a lot about a country on how they treat their prisoners. In 2016, America had 2.3 million people behind bars. America has the dubious distinction of having the highest incarceration rate in the world. For most Americans and military members, people incarcerated in prisons are throwaways, not something they think about. It’s easier to say, that he/she probably got what they deserved.

We at MilitaryCorrpution.com know better than to say something that stupid and ignorant. We know from two decades of writing articles on this website, there are a percentage of people in prison, especially military prisons, who are there because they blew-the-whistle on someone, or they just simply pissed someone off. We also know from decades of experience, the military judicial system is severely rigged in favor of the military.

The military has always had a two-tiered judicial system to ensure flag-ranking officers are above the laws they impose on everyone else. Equal justice under law does not exist in the American military judicial system. It’s a simple fact of life. Believe it or not, some of the men behind those bars are innocent victims of a corrupt system. And, some have simply been way over-sentenced. For example: A dishonorable discharge for a naval officer and pilot for a date with an enlisted woman in the naval reserves. You don’t think it happened? Well, we are sad to say that it did.

When the military picks the judge, picks the prosecutor and the defense counsel, and when the guy who brought the charges against you also picks the jury and subtly threatens all of there careers if they “fail in their duty” and, when the military has their own little penal system concealed from the rest of the world — ask yourself, what could possibly go wrong?

In the Summer and Fall of 2017 Marine Corps Air Station Miramar in San Diego, CA had the dubious honor of being the hottest place in the United States for multiple days. On Oct 24, 2017, the mercury hit a stiffing 108F beating all records for temperatures this late in the year.

When it gets this hot, Southern California residents all get the usual warnings about the health hazards and are admonished to keep hydrated and try to stay in air-conditioned spaces. There is good reason too.  Heat can kill. Since 1970 more than 9,000 people have died because of heat related illnesses, and many tens of thousands have been hospitalized.

But if you served our nation in the military, and for whatever reason find yourself in a military prison facility, you could very well find yourself stuffed in a concrete oven. Miramar, formerly known as Fighter Town USA is now one of the largest Marine Corps installations in the U.S. and home to the Naval Consolidated Brig at Miramar (NCBM), one of the military’s largest correctional facilities. Like any other correctional facility, it is required to maintain certain standards for living conditions. But, behind the barbedwire fences, on a secure military base and away from prying eyes of the general public, those standards are often ignored.

Navy Brig at Miramar, California

What are the standards we are referring to? The American Correctional Association (ACA) is the defacto authority. Their prison standards are  voluntary unless applying for accreditation with the ACA as the naval brig in Miramar did in Sep 2017. Those standards require that: “Temperature and humidity are mechanically raised or lowered to acceptable comfort levels.” The previous version of that standard used to refer to “acceptable summer and winter comfort zones.”

To accompany these military regulations, SECNAV INSTRUCTION 1640.9c and BUPERS INSTRUCTION 1640.22 (1640-22), require the temperature be maintained within the standards for the bachelor enlisted quarters and the American Corrections Association standards for summer and winter comfort zones. Courts have spoken on this as well. Time and time again they have found that high cell temperatures can constitute ‘Cruel and Unusual Punishment’ and in many cases they have ordered prisons to reduce and control temperatures in inmate housing to remedy what is viewed as a basic Constitutional violation.

Under the Eighth Amendment of the United States Constitution, every inmate has the right to be free from inhumane treatment or anything that could be considered “cruel and unusual” punishment. Unfortunately, the Eighth Amendment did not clearly define what “cruel and unusual” punishment includes, meaning much of the definition has derived from case law.

Generally speaking, any punishment that is considered inhumane treatment, like torture or abuse, or a violation of a person’s basic dignity may be considered cruel and unusual within the discretion of the court. In some cases, the court has taken it further. Some judges would consider temperatures well over 100 degrees in a concrete box as cruel and unusual punishment.

Despite this, four of the six male dormitories in the NCBM do not have any air conditioning at all, and summer temperatures stay in the upper 80’s to low 90’s, but dramatically rise above 100 degrees during what Southern Californians call a Santa Ana condition. Santa Ana winds are extremely dry down-slope winds that originate inland and affect coastal Southern California and northern Baja California. They originate from cool, dry high-pressure air masses in the Great Basin.

Santa Ana winds are known for very hot, dry weather that normally arrives in autumn (often the hottest time of the year in Southern California), but they can also arise at other times of the year. They often bring the lowest relative humidities of the year to coastal Southern California. These low humidities, combined with the warm, compressionally-heated air mass, plus high wind speeds, create critical fire weather conditions. Also sometimes called “devil winds” in conjunction with Northern California’s diablo wind, the Santa Anas are infamous for fanning regional wildfires. But, in Miramar’s Navy brig, they can mean weeks of unbearable suffering for the inmates and guards alike.

Often prisoners have no alternative but to sleep on the cement floor because it’s cooler, but only by a very little bit. Prisoners asking to buy fans for their cells and have been repeatedly denied. The only fans allowed in the cells are the small battery-operated ones for use in the dogs kennels as part of the Companion K-9 training program.  Yes, dogs get fans, men, many with multiple combat tours who served our country, get nothing.

The Chain of Command can’t claim ignorance on this issue.  During the summer of 2017 the Commanding Officer, CDR Jennifer Forbus, was asked about this issue by a prisoner as she walked around one of the dorms. Her response, “I don’t think [the Navy] will give me money to pay for it so I’m not even going to ask.”  That is not an excuse especially considering that the same courts that have found these conditions to be a Constitutional violation have also stated that “Financial considerations do not excuse noncompliance with court-ordered reforms where Constitutional violations are found.”

The commanding officer is not the only person in a leadership role ignoring the issue. A letter that was sent to the ACA ahead of the Sep 2017 accreditation, addressed this issue and the ACA subsequently brought it to the attention of the Executive Officer, CDR Cliff Uddenberg, but again no action was taken and big surprise, the Brig passed the accreditation. Well, how the hell did that happen? It certainly wasn’t during a Santa Ana heat wave that’s for sure.

And it isn’t just the local Chain of Command. In May of 2017 the daughter of one of the service members in the Brig filed an Inspector General complaint about the lack of heat or A/C. You see there is no heat either, so temperatures are usually in the 40’s, and sometimes in the 30’s, at night and early mornings during the winter and early spring. After no reply to that complaint another was filed by the service member himself in Dec 2017.  This complaint garnered no response from the military or from either of his two State Senators from Florida, Rubio (R) and Nelson (D), who he sent copies to.

It did, however, get the attention of a former Federal Judge who forwarded the letter personally to Secretary of the Navy Spencer in Feb 2018.  Even with all that, the situation still hasn’t changed. According to an August 2018 statement from the parent of another service member there is still no relief even while temperatures at Miramar are topping over 100 again. This is not isolated either.

Navy Brig, Miramar, California. This is a picture of the new part of the prison. These and the female dorms do have A/C, but in the rest of the prison, the inmates suffer from near triple digit temperatures in the summer and near freezing temperatures in the winter.

The same thing is happening just up the road at the Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base Brig where not even the dogs get fans. According to a family member that visited recently the Marines brought his dog to visitation on the weekend because it was just a few degrees cooler than in his cell.  The family member was shocked at how hot it was, They were only able to stay and visit just so long, because they provided visitors ice water, a luxury the inmates do not receive.

Sweltering in the heat and freezing in the cold isn’t the only problem at Camp Pendleton, because of prison overcrowding, they actually run out of food. Yes, you heard it right, they frequently have been running out of food. In once case, an inmate who was an orthodox Jew, was given the only thing left on the menu, two pork sausage patties. It was almost a cruel stunt, because they knew he was absolutely forbidden to eat any pork or pork products. We can hear the military commanders now, “Fuck those criminals, I don’t care if they freeze or have heat stroke, nor do I care if they get the food of their choice or any fuckin food at all.”

What will it take to get the military or anyone else to take action on these issues?  Does someone need to die, before something is done? Do we really care so little about these service members simply because of their incarcerated condition? Again, you can tell a lot about a country, or a Navy by the way they are treating people in prison. Sure they may of made mistakes but they also all raised their hands, swore and oath and defended our nation in a time of war. Don’t these men deserve a little consideration – just a little?

Don’t a percentage of our inmate population deserve a little respect – just a little? And, if they can’t get any respect from anyone in the military chain of command, then don’t they at least deserve those protections afforded to them under the Constitution of the United States that bars against cruel and unusual punishment? – The same Constitution they were willing to die to defend?

If they don’t care about the inmates, well – OK. But, shouldn’t we have enough respect for the Constitution which demands they be treated humanely. Shivering all night long in the winter, sweltering in the summer and running out of food is an inhumane way to treat any human being and could be considered as a mild form of physical and mental torture.

If you know nothing about MilitaryCorruption.com, you should know that we have an unshakable reverence for the LAW. Unfortunately, the LAW is not applied to everyone, especially in the military. Admirals and generals are always allowed to retire to avoid any investigation or prosecution. There are several admirals and generals that should be in prison, but they are given a pass and hold themselves above the LAW.

Having a reverence for the LAW means adhering to the United States Constitution, that all military personnel were sworn to protect and defend. It’s a shame the military brass do not uphold the Constitution when it comes to basic human rights for those their dubious military judicial system has incarcerated.

Even the down-and-outs among us should have a little heat in the winter, lower temperatures in the summer and enough food to eat. The Constitution demands it, and we should too.