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David Coombs

David E. Coombs is accused whistleblower Bradley Manning's defense attorney.

January 26th, 2011 11:46 PM

PFC Bradley Manning Is Not Being Treated Like Every Other Detainee

Despite the assertion of Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell, PFC Bradley Manning is not being treated like every other detainee at the Quantico brig.  Morrell stated during today’s Pentagon briefing that PFC Manning’s “confinement is not in the least different from the manner in which anyone else at the brig is being held.”  This statement is patently false.

PFC Manning is being treated differently.  He is the only detainee being held in Maximum (MAX) custody and under Prevention of Injury (POI) watch.  Every other detainee is being held in Medium Detention In (MDI) and without POI watch restrictions.  What is the difference?

Maximum Custody Detainees vs. Medium Detention In Detainees

Maximum Custody - PFC Manning:
Under the Secretary of Navy Instruction 1649.9C, the regulation that details the proper procedures and safeguards for classification of inmates, evaluation of inmates and the limited use of special quarters, a maximum custody detainee has the following mandatory restrictions:

(1) Supervision must be immediate and continuous. A DD 509, Inspection Record of Prisoner in Segregation, shall be posted by the cell door and appropriate entries made at least every 15 minutes.

(2) They shall not be assigned to work details outside the cell.

(3) They shall be assigned to the most secure quarters.

(4) Two or more staff members shall be present when MAX prisoners are out of their cells.

(5) MAX prisoners shall wear restraints at all times when outside the maximum-security area and be escorted by at least two escorts (confinement facility staff or certified escorts, per article 7406).

Under the above restrictions, PFC Manning is held in his cell for 23 hours a day.  Whenever he is moved outside of his cell, the entire facility is locked down.  PFC Manning must wear hand and leg restraints when he is outside of his cell.  He is escorted by at least two guards whenever he is moved.

Medium Custody In - Every other detainee:
Every other detainee is being held in MDI status.  Under the regulation, these detainees have the following restrictions:

(1) Supervision shall be continuous within the security perimeter and immediate and continuous when outside the security perimeter.

(2) They shall not be assigned to work outside the security perimeter.

(3) They shall wear restraints outside the security perimeter unless the CO/OIC/CPOIC directs otherwise.

(4) They shall be escorted by at least two confinement facility staff or certified escorts, per article 7406, unless the CO/OIC/CPOIC directs only one escort is required.

(5) They may be assigned dormitory quarters.

Under the above restrictions, every other detainee is allowed outside of their cell for the majority of the day.  The facility is not locked down when they are walking in the brig.  They do not wear hand and leg restraints outside of their cell.  They are not escorted by guards when outside of their cell.  Every other detainee is assigned to work details during the day.  These work details allow them move freely within the facility and also outside of the facility whenever within the security perimeter.

Prevention of Injury Watch vs. No Prevention of Injury Watch

Prevention of Injury Watch - PFC Manning:
In addition to the difference in custody status, PFC Manning is also being held in special quarters under POI watch.  Due to the POI watch, he is held in solitary confinement.  For 23 hours per day, he sits in his cell.  The guards check on him every five minutes by asking him if he is okay.  He is required to respond in some affirmative manner.  At night, if the guards can not see him clearly, because he has a blanket over his head or he is curled up towards the wall, they will wake him in order to ensure that he is okay.  He receives each of his meals in his cell.  He is not allowed to have a pillow or sheets.  He is not allowed to have any personal items in his cell.  He is only allowed to have one book or one magazine at any given time to read.  The book or magazine is taken away from him at the end of the day before he goes to sleep.  He is prevented from exercising in his cell.  If he attempts to do push-ups, sit-ups, or any other form of exercise he will be forced to stop.  He receives one hour of exercise outside of his cell daily.  The guards take him to a room and allow him to walk.  He usually walks in figure eights around the room.  When he goes to sleep, he is required to strip down to his underwear and surrender his clothing to the guards.   

No Prevention of Injury Watch - Every other detainee:
Every other detainee is not subjected to constant monitoring or asked if they are okay every five minutes.  Every other detainee is allowed to have sheets and a pillow.  Every other detainee may have personal items in their cell.  Every other detainee may have paper and pens in their cell in order to write to family and friends.  Every other detainee may have any combination of 15 books or magazines in their cell at all times.  Any other detainee can exercise in their cell during the day.  No other detainee has to strip to their underwear at the end of the day and surrender their clothing to the guards.

Secretary of the Navy Instruction (SECNAVINST) 1649.9C indicates that “only a small percentage of prisoners shall be classified as maximum.”  The reason?  Maximum custody is very onerous for the detainee and requires a large commitment of resources from the confinement facility.

Background Information:
PFC Manning arrived at the Quantico brig on July 29, 2010.  He was placed in MAX and under suicide watch.  On August 6, 2010, the forensic psychiatrist for the brig recommended that PFC Manning be moved from suicide watch to POI.  Over the course of the following weeks, the brig forensic psychiatrist met with PFC Manning on a frequent basis.  Due to PFC Manning’s good behavior and demeanor, on August 27, 2010, the brig psychiatrist recommended that PFC Manning be taken off of POI watch and that his confinement classification be changed from MAX to MDI.  

Over the course of the following three months, the brig forensic psychiatrist consistently recommended PFC Manning be taken off of POI watch.  The only exception to this was on December 10, 2010 when he recommended that PFC Manning remain under POI watch for one week.  This was due to a rumor that had spread on Twitter suggesting that PFC Manning had committed suicide.  Due to the rumor, the brig forensic psychiatrist believed it was prudent to place PFC Manning on POI watch.  The following week, that same forensic psychiatrist once again recommended that PFC Manning be removed from POI watch.  Despite these consistent recommendations, PFC Manning has remained on POI watch and in MAX custody.  

The brig forensic psychiatrist’s recommendation comes as no surprise given the fact PFC Manning has been a model inmate.  At no time has he been disrespectful, violent or noncompliant.  PFC Manning does not exhibit any of the criteria normally established for MAX custody under the Navy Instruction.  Given the consistent recommendation of the brig forensic psychiatrist and PFC Manning’s model behavior, it is unclear why he is still held in MAX custody and under POI watch.

Under SECNAVINST 1649.9C, 1201 “discipline is to be administered on a corrective rather than a punitive basis.”  Additionally SECNAVINST 1649.9C, 7202.2.i states “no persons, while being held for trial may be subjected to punishment or penalty other than arrest or confinement, nor shall the arrest or confinement imposed upon them be any more rigorous than the circumstances require.” PFC Manning’s confinement classification and his POI watch are in contravention of this mandate.

In order to ensure a servicemember is not arbitrarily maintained in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time, SECNAVINST 1649.9C, 4204 requires a Classification and Assignment (C&A) board to establish an individual inmate’s custody classification using “objective classification/reclassification procedures.”  It is unclear what the C&A Board recommended to the confinement facility commander or the basis for its recommendation.  However, it is clear that the former commander made the determination to keep PFC Manning in MAX custody and under POI watch (and under a 2-day suicide watch last week) over the recommendation of the brig’s forensic psychiatrist.    

In order to assess the reasonableness of the brig commander’s determination, the defense requested that the brig explain the basis for its determination and why this information was apparently not deemed significant by the brig’s forensic psychiatrist – the primary individual responsible for assessing a detainee’s risk for self harm or harm to others.  It is the defense’s position that the classification of PFC Manning in MAX and under an assignment of POI is based upon an inappropriate reason and is therefore an abuse of discretion.  The defense is hoping that the new commander will conduct a complete review of the confinement classification and assignment of PFC Manning.  It is our hope that she will order his removal from POI watch and reduce his classification level from MAX to MDI.

Only if this is done will Mr. Morrell be correct in stating that PFC Manning is being treated like every other detainee at the brig.

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