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What is a Military Prison?

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  • Written By: Tara Barnett
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 02 November 2016
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A military prison is a prison built and maintained by the military, which may be used to hold members of the military who have committed crimes relating to military service, prisoners of war, or people who are threats to national security. The conditions in this type of prison and the way in which the prison is used depends on the country in question. In some areas, prisoners in this type of facility might receive better treatment than prisoners who have committed other crimes, particularly because there are often strict rules about ethical treatment of prisoners that are externally monitored. Even so, the conditions inside a military prison may not be as transparent as they seem, and prisoners may be treated very poorly in some cases.

Most countries have a military prison system of some sort, but some are more defined than others. The first type of military prisoner housed in this type of prison consists of people involved with the military who have committed a crime relating to the military. Typically, these prisoners have been convicted by a military court. In this sense, a military prison can be used to punish offenders.

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The other type of prisoner most often housed in a military prison is usually not guilty of committing a crime within the military, but rather is an enemy of the nation or an enemy combatant. Prisoners of war are usually held in this type of prison, but this is not a system explicitly designed to punish prisoners. There are many international rules regarding the treatment of this type of prisoner while within prison, and breaking these rules can have dire consequences for a country.

Certain criminals may be considered particularly dangerous for a nation and may be housed in a military prison as well. These criminals, who may include terrorists or spies, are often more vulnerable to poor treatment than prisoners of war. It is sometimes considered acceptable to interrogate this type of prisoner to obtain information. Judgment of this type of criminal is also complex, so a prisoner of this sort may not even be guilty when he or she is sent to prison.

Quality and fairness of a military prison can often be taken to represent the ethics of a military organization itself. These prisons are run entirely by the military, and treatment of prisoners reflects the attitude of the military, as it might be manifested without direct oversight. Looking at behavior within a military prison can therefore be used to talk about changes that need to be made overall to make sure that a military organization behaves ethically in all activities.

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