Building a new stockade

JBLM to host a new correctional facility

By J.M. Simpson on March 5, 2020

Tuesday morning's groundbreaking ceremony for a new Northwestern Joint Regional Correctional Facility (NWJRCF) at Joint Base Lewis-McChord (JBLM) honored the past as it moves into the future.

"This new facility will continue to contribute to the readiness of the force here at home and the readiness of the Army," said Lt. Col. Christopher Hodl, commander, 508th Military Police Battalion (Detention), before the ceremony.

Along with the U.S. Army Correctional Activity, the battalion's soldiers are responsible for the daily operations of the NWJRCF and the care and custody of the prisoners.

The care takes the form of prisoner safety along with a variety of correctional, vocational, employment and treatment programs to assist in a prisoner's return to society.

Due to the construction, the facility's prisoners have been transferred to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

The Army Corps of Engineers, Seattle District, will handle the $87.2 million project. 

Work began last month and is scheduled to be completed in August 2022. 

The primary facilities to be constructed include a main confinement facility (capacity for 150 beds), as well as a vocational facility, warehouse, maintenance/engineering shop, power plant and integrated perimeter security fence. 

The next two years of construction also allow the 508th MP Battalion to hone other aspects of its mission.

"Due to the closure," commented 1st Sgt. Tiffany Chagdes, "we have a great opportunity to train on our other skills in being prepared to complete the mission here at JBLM, and if we are deployed."

There is a bit of history surrounding stockades at JBLM.

"The first stockade was known as ‘J Block,' and was built in 1934," explained Army veteran Ennice Hobbs, Jr., the facility's deputy commander.

He would know, his institutional knowledge of the correctional facility's history at JBLM goes back to 1991.

The old NWJRCF was built and activated as an Installation Detention Facility (IDF) in March 1957, and its mission was to provide for then Fort Lewis' short-term confinements.

In 1991, the IDF was reorganized as a Regional Corrections Facility (RCF) to support Army commands and activities in the Western United States, Alaska, Hawaii and Korea.

Seventeen years later in 2008, the RCF was realigned under Army Corrections Command, and in April of 2009 the facility was designated as a NWJRCF.

Since then, the NWJRCF at JBLM has served the Department of Defense as a Level 2 correctional facility which houses prisoners from all branches of the military for sentences up to 10 years.

However, the original facility built in the 1950s begun to show its age.

"There were infrastructure failures," Hobbs simply said.

"There were power outages, and when we used generators we could only power so many things. As to the plumbing failures, they were unique."

With the new facility, all of this will change.

"This new facility will ensure it continues to be an honorable institution and viable platform of military corrections for decades to come," concluded Hodl.