Field Confinement of US Military Prisoners

On the battlefield MP provide for the temporary confinement and swift evacuation of US military prisoners. MP confinement operations parallel, but are separate from, the MP EPW internment and evacuation system. Members of the US armed forces cannot be confined in immediate association with enemy prisoners of war, civilian internees, detainees, or other foreign nationals who are not members of the US armed forces.

On the battlefield MP operate field detention facilities (FDFs) and field confinement facilities (FCFs). When the decision is made by the theater army commander that prisoners are to be retained in theater, FDFs may be set up in the combat zone and an FCF may be set up in the communications zone (COMMZ).






Military police use FDFs in the combat zone. FDFs are temporary facilities set up to detain soldiers placed in custody. FDFs are used to hold soldiers in custody only until they can be tried and sentenced to confinement and evacuated from the area.

Whenever possible, soldiers awaiting trial remain in their units. Only when they present a hazard to the mission, themselves, or others are they placed in pretrial confinement and detained by MP. MP companies assigned to corps and TAACOMS are responsible for the detention of US military prisoners in their areas of operation. Convicted military prisoners are moved when possible to confinement facilities outside the area of operations.

In the combat zone, US military prisoners are detained in two ways. They may be placed under the control of a squad or a team already performing another operation, such as an EPW collecting point or a TCP. Or they may be placed in a separate, temporary FDF. When small numbers of US prisoners are on hand, the squad operating the EPW collecting point can best take on responsibility for US prisoners. But military prisoners must be physically separated from EPWs. When large numbers exist, an MP team or squad may be given the mission to set up a detention facility. The PM decides when a detention facility is needed. The PM plans the detention of US prisoners and assigns the mission to the company commander. The company commander tasks an MP element to perform this operation, or he coordinates the removal of the prisoners to a corps detention facility. If there are many prisoners in the company's area of operations, a confinement team may be required to set up a temporary detention facility in the division area.

Unit commanders are encouraged to use unit assets to detain soldiers accused of crimes as long as feasible. But they may take them to an FDF if this is necessary. Procedures are provided in commanders' policies for detaining and confining soldiers. If it is not feasible for the unit commander to retain control, MP will temporarily detain the prisoners.

Either a team or a squad can operate an FDF. A team operating a detention facility may organize so that the team leader controls the operation and spells the guards, and the other team members perform guard duty in alternating 12-hour shifts. When operating an FDF, MP sign a receipt for each prisoner on DD Form 629 and for the prisoner's property on DA Form 4137. Policies and procedures on the care and treatment of prisoners and the safeguarding of the prisoners' personal effects apply to FDFs to the same extent that they apply to other Army confinement facilities. The physical criteria for housing the facility in permanent and temporary structures are basically similar. Maximum use should be made of existing structures to house confinement facilities. If a tent is used, it should not be smaller than the general purpose medium tent. Field expedient facilities must be approved by the Medical Corps Officer, who also conducts periodic inspections.

Plans for establishing an FDF should include the following list of equipment and supplies which represents minimum requirements:

  • Barbed wire--roll.
  • Barbed wire--concertina.
  • Fence posts.
  • Gates and doors.
  • Floodlights and spotlights, complete with wiring.
  • Emergency generator.
  • Mess equipment and equipment for cleaning mess gear.
  • Water cans and/or lister bag.
  • Typewriters.
  • First aid equipment and supplies.
  • Spare clothing and bedding.


Convicted US military prisoners are usually only held for a short time in a theater of operations. Then they are evacuated for correctional treatment out of theater. However, they can be confined in theater if circumstances warrant.

An FCF is maintained within the theater of operations when the prisoner population requires it, the distance to CONUS is too great, or the lack of transportation to evacuate prisoners to CONUS demands it. A separate MP confinement battalion is assigned to the Personnel Command (PERSCOM) to support the theater of operation's confinement of US military prisoners. It provides the theater with trained confinement personnel. And it provides a place capable of handling 1,500 US military prisoners.

Military police temporarily confine soldiers in custody in tactical situations in an FCF. FCFs are used to hold soldiers in custody only until they can be evacuated to a correctional facility. An FCF can be a temporary, semipermanent, or permanent structure located in the COMMZ. Policies and procedures on the care and treatment of prisoners and the safeguarding of prisoners' personal effects apply to FCFs to the same extent that they apply to Army confinement facilities in peacetime environments.

Although conditions within an FCF may be austere, military prisoners of the US forces are given the benefit of shelter and sustenance like that provided duty soldiers in the area of operations. The MP confinement battalion commander selects the general location of the confinement facility. The battalion commander must ensure the location of an FCF is not adjacent to the base perimeter, ammunition supply point, or any other area where the safety of the prisoners is imperiled.

The MP confinement battalion commander is the FCF commander and maintains command and control of the facility. Battalion HQ is assigned a number of MP guard companies to confine, protect, sustain, and evacuate US military prisoners. Confinement teams are deployed within the combat zone for pretrial detention purposes only as needed.


The command PM seeks to expedite actions involving military prisoners in pretrial confinement as well as those who have been sentenced. Coordination with the USACIDC field element is undertaken to prioritize and expedite investigations on those persons held in pretrial confinement. And continuing coordination with Corps Support Command administrative services elements and transportation elements is necessary. When possible, prompt action is taken to ensure sentenced prisoners are expeditiously evacuated to the rear. Military prisoners are moved from corps detention facilities through the COMMZ confinement facility to confinement and correctional facilities in CONUS with a minimum of delay. The confinement facility commander, if one is required in a COMMZ, coordinates with the Assistant Chief of Staff, PERSCOM, to ensure prompt administrative action. Assets of the Transportation Command must be requested to support movement of military prisoners from corps to COMMZ and from COMMZ to CONUS. Coordination is made with TAACOM elements to provide subsistence for those military prisoners kept within a COMMZ for brief periods. Close and continuous coordination is maintained between the PM and the Commander, Medical Command. This facilitates the security and segregation of military prisoners undergoing medical treatment or being evacuated through medical channels.

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