Army corrections facility in Europe set for move to Sembach

Published Feb. 27, 2014
SEMBACH, Germany – U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Europe District is playing a key role in transferring the last Cold War vestige in Mannheim to the revamped Army garrison here.

Officials have targeted late July for completion of U.S. Army Regional Correctional Facility-Europe, which is among numerous functions being shifted to Sembach Kaserne as part of the Coleman Barracks closure. The new $9 million replacement complex likely won’t be fully outfitted until sometime this fall to allow time for the relocation of personnel, prisoners and other assets. Right now, the jail is the only active element left at U.S. Army Garrison Mannheim.

Europe District’s Kaiserslautern Resident Office is managing the project, alongside its contractor, LBB Kaiserslautern. Construction began last April.

“The confinement facility in its Mannheim location is the last facility still operational at Coleman Barracks,” said project manager Kristen Stroh. “It is Europe District’s responsibility to ensure timely construction contract completion and swift turnover so that the installation can close and be turned back over to the German government.”

The corrections facility opened at Coleman Barracks in 1963, but its history dates to the end of World War II. Beginning in 1945, the U.S. ran the confinement mission out of Mannheim Castle. It remains the Army’s lone military prison in Europe.

Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Plemmons, the U.S. Army Regional Correctional Facility-Europe sergeant major, said its main purpose in Germany is to secure pretrial and short-term prisoners normally serving less than a year. The unit also provides Soldiers downrange to advise and conduct detention operations.

But being assigned to a “work-only” site in Mannheim presents challenges, he added. For example, there are no Army and Air Force Exchange Service restaurants or establishments run by the Directorate of Family and Morale, Welfare and Recreation.

“All the Soldiers, sailors and airmen who work here live in the Kaiserslautern area, so they commute about 60 miles a day round trip,” Plemmons said. “Emergency and [Directorate of Public Works] support are still available to us, so in the time since Coleman closed, we haven’t had any significant problems.”

When finished, the new facility at Sembach will house up to 40 individuals for pretrial and post-trial confinement, as well as sentence duration, with separate quarters for men and women. The complex will consist of a security and administration office, dining facility, chapel, showers, storage, reception, visitor areas; training, supply, mail and counseling rooms; library and health clinic.

Stroh said Army Corrections Command is funding the closed-circuit television security system, kitchen equipment and cell furniture, which are being handled through separate, individual contracts. Those items must be in place and operational to gain facility certification by July 21.

“But it will takes us roughly 90 days to move furniture, [information technology] equipment … and train and certify our Soldiers on the security systems there,” Plemmons said.

The Sembach corrections facility also will receive power from a new cogeneration plant, Stroh said.

“This facility was built in accordance with confinement-facility design guides that should ease operations in contrast to the previous confinement facility, which was a renovation of an existing building,” she added.

While the maximum capacity is 40, the operational level will be closer to the monthly average of 30-32 prisoners, Plemmons said. Roughly 65 percent of the population is there for crimes such as assault, rape and sexual assault.

The sergeant major said the new setup will have many advantages over the current Mannheim jail.

“The electronics for the security system should be a huge improvement, and the closed-circuit TV monitoring system at the new facility is state of the art,” he added. “The hope is it will provide a safe, secure place for the prisoners to live and work and for the staff to work. The facility is compact, and the design allows the prisoners easy access to all staff and treatment programs.”

USACE remains instrumental in the restoration and modernization of Sembach Kaserne, shifted from Air Force to Army control in 2010.

Numerous Europe District projects include utility and site preparations for the corrections-facility transfer, design and renovation of a building for the American Forces Network’s relocation from Mannheim, and a two-building overhaul at Sembach to accommodate a move by the U.S. Army Europe Band.