Pfc. Bradley Manning Moved to Prison in Kansas

For now, home for the Army private at the center of the WikiLeaks scandal is a one-man cell at a new prison in Fort Leavenworth.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning — charged with leaking classified military information to the website — moved Wednesday from solitary confinement in a Marine jail in Quantico, Va., to a cell that opens into common areas he shares with other inmates.

The cross-country move came a mere day after Department of Defense General Counsel Jeh Johnson announced a plan to relocate Manning.

“At this juncture of the case we have decided that the new Joint Regional Correctional Facility at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, is the most appropriate facility for Private Manning for continued pretrial detention,” Johnson said in a briefing.

Manning was an intelligence specialist in Baghdad during 2009 and early 2010 when the military alleges that he downloaded classified documents. The information, which includes classified details of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, landed on the WikiLeaks website. Since then the information has been regarded both as politically embarrassing and a grave breach of military security.

The news of Manning’s transfer to Kansas comes after several international groups, including Amnesty International, stepped up criticism of Manning’s treatment at the Marine jail. The detention conditions caused State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley to describe the treatment as “ridiculous, counterproductive and stupid.” Crowley was forced to resign days later but has stood by his statement.

At Quantico, Manning had been in solitary confinement for 23 hours a day with little or no contact with other inmates and was banned from exercising in his cell. He was forced to sleep in boxers with no blankets or pillow because he was deemed a risk to harm himself. For a few days Manning was made to strip before bed, according to published reports.

At Fort Leavenworth, Manning will go through an in-depth risk assessment for five to seven days, said Joint Regional Correctional Facility Commandant Army Lt. Col. Dawn Hilton. The assessment will help determine whether he has access to such things as a pillow, sheets and other items that critics say he was denied at Quantico.

Hilton said that during the assessment Manning will be watched to make sure he’s assimilating into the population.

Manning will be in custody with eight other pretrial inmates who live in a special housing unit.

Manning will be treated no differently, Hilton said.

“He’ll receive open recreational time for three hours during the day, both indoors and outdoors. And he’ll have the capability to interact with other pretrial inmates on a routine basis,” Hilton said.

The 250,000-square-foot prison has an open design that is starkly different from many older facilities. Inmates generally spend time together during meals and recreation periods.

Manning also will have access to religious support, medical and mental health care, personal and legal visitation and phone calls, and can write and receive mail daily.

He will return to the Washington, D.C., area for legal proceedings, Johnson said, because his case is under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army’s military district of Washington.

Johnson said Manning’s move to Fort Leavenworth was unrelated to the criticism of his treatment in Quantico. The Department of Defense is satisfied that his pretrial confinement there was in “compliance with legal and regulatory standards” in all respects, he said.

Johnson said the move instead comes because Manning’s mental competency inquiry review is complete and “Private Manning’s presence in the Washington, D.C., area is no longer necessary for that purpose.”

The medical opinion of the mental health review, known in military justice terms as a 706 board, will take more time, Johnson added. But the military has decided the new Fort Leavenworth facility is better suited to house Manning.

Quantico typically holds pretrial inmates about two months, Johnson said.

“Army Corrections Command has reviewed the new facility and determined that it has the expertise and capability to provide continued long-term pretrial confinement for Private Manning,” Johnson said.

The Fort Leavenworth facility opened in fall 2010. It is designed both for inmates awaiting trial and post-trial inmates serving less than five years.

The official facility opening brought much fanfare as the military said it would offer the best wide-ranging services. The 464-bed facility houses about 150 inmates, according to the Department of Defense.

The $95 million Joint Regional Correctional Facility stands near the better-known and older U.S. Disciplinary Barracks, which is the military’s only maximum security prison. The Disciplinary Barracks is designed to house inmates serving sentences longer than five years, including life or execution.

Together the two facilities comprise the Military Corrections Complex. The state-of-the-art facilities have licensed psychiatrists and social workers on staff around the clock.

The military police who serve as guards undergo specialized training and regularly keep watch over high-profile inmates. The same group of officers was called upon for deployment to Iraq not long after the Abu Ghraib scandal.

At Fort Leavenworth, Hilton said that, like all inmates there, Manning will receive “support from an experienced, trained professional staff that have been doing this for well over 20 years, and he’ll receive the mental health, physical health and emotional health (support) that he needs to go through this judicial process.”

© 2011 McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

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