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Manning to serve sentence at famous Leavenworth

Thursday - 8/22/2013, 1:50pm  ET

In this undated photograph provided by the U.S. Army is a commons area in the United States Disciplinary Barracks at Fort Leavenworth in Fort Leavenworth, Kan. Army Pfc. Bradley Manning, sentenced Wednesday Aug. 21, 2013, to 35 years in prison for giving hundreds of thousands of secret military and diplomatic documents to WikiLeaks, could be headed for hard time at Fort Leavenworth, home to the American military’s most famous prison. (AP Photo/U.S. Army)
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JOHN HANNA
Associated Press

TOPEKA, Kan. (AP) -- After being sentenced to 35 years in prison for leaking classified documents to the anti-secrecy website WikiLeaks, Pfc. Bradley Manning is headed for hard time at Fort Leavenworth, home to the American military's most famous prison.

The Army penitentiary has shed its once-imposing stone edifice, but inside Manning would confront a dreary, unchanging environment where inmates are highly restricted, graveyard work shifts are common and jobs pay just pennies per hour.

The judge did not say where Manning would serve his time, but his attorney David Coombs confirmed he was going there.

Manning already has spent time in Leavenworth alongside the military's worst criminals. Here's a look inside.

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A PRISON TOWN

For generations, Leavenworth -- a city of 35,000 just west of Kanas City, Mo. -- has had an ominous place in pop culture. The name alone conjures images of chain gangs of prisoners in zebra-striped uniforms cracking rocks with pick axes -- all under the gaze of cold-eyed guards atop watch towers.

Hollywood's license notwithstanding, this city and the surrounding area are largely defined by the business of incarceration. Near the military barracks is the U.S. Penitentiary in Leavenworth, a federal prison known for its "Big House." Just miles away in Lansing is the state's oldest prison, where the two men convicted of the Kansas killings that inspired the book "In Cold Blood" were hanged in 1965.

Fort Leavenworth's former Disciplinary Barracks, an imposing structure overlooking the Missouri River, was once known as "The Castle."

But some of the architecture at the military's current Disciplinary Barracks, which opened in 2002, seems more like a modern community college built on a landscape of rolling hills. Cells are built in pods around a common area.

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A STORIED PRISON HISTORY

The military built its first prison at Fort Leavenworth in the 1870s, and "The Castle" that so dominated the Army post's landscape for decades held as many as 1,500 prisoners. The current prison is much smaller, with 515 beds.

Leavenworth had its share of famous inmates.

It housed Mennonites who objected to military service during World War I, and 14 German prisoners from World War II were hanged there in 1945 for murdering other POWs they believed were traitors.

The old prison also housed Lt. William Calley, who was convicted of murder over the My Lai Massacre in 1968 during the Vietnam War, and famed boxer Rocky Graziano, who received a nine-month sentence during World War II for going absent without leave after punching an officer.

Manning could add to the list, as could Maj. Nidal Hasan, who is on trial in the 2009 attack on Fort Hood that killed 13 people and wounded more than 30.

The inmates include ranks as high as lieutenant colonel. Fort Leavenworth said five service members are on death row, including, Hasan Akbar, convicted for the 2003 murder of two Army officers in Kuwait.

The prison also is where Sgt. Robert Bales will be housed after being convicted of killing 16 Afghan civilians during nighttime raids in 2012.

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A REPETITIVE AND REGIMENTED LIFE

Leavenworth inmates will spend an average of 19 years behind bars.

Raelean Finch, a former Army captain who visits the barracks regularly, described life inside as "monotonous."

The prison's daily routines are "fairly repetitive, restrictive and militarized," said Anita Gorecki-Robbins, a Washington military defense lawyer. And inmates have no Internet access.

Army regulations require prisoners to do "a full day of useful, constructive work" and a 40-hour workweek. Prisoners have maintenance, warehouse, laundry and kitchen details but also have access to multiple vocational training programs, including graphic arts and barbering.

An inmate's daily schedule -- when he rises and sleeps -- depends upon when he works. There is a graveyard shift and working it allows an inmate to sleep until early afternoon, Finch said.

Finch co-authors a blog, "Captain Incarcerated," with an inmate she identifies only as "Russ" because she doesn't not want postings to affect his prospects for parole. Depending on how they're classified after arriving, inmates often are required to spend only six hours a day -- or even none -- in their cells, she said.

That would contrast with Manning's past incarceration at the Marine Corps brig in Quantico, Va., where he was confined in a windowless 6-by-8-foot cell for 23 hours a day. Sometimes, all his clothing, including underwear, was removed from his cell, along with his glasses and reading material. The Pentagon defended his treatment, saying it was designed to prevent him from committing suicide.

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