In the United States Armed Forces, non-judicial punishment is a form of military justice authorized by Article 15 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice. NJP permits commanders to administratively discipline troops without a court-martial. Punishment can range from reprimand to reduction in rank, correctional custody, loss of pay, extra duty, and/or restrictions. The receipt of non-judicial punishment does not constitute a criminal conviction (it is equivalent to a civil action), but is often placed in the service record of the individual. The process for non-judicial punishment is governed by Part V of the Manual for Courts-Martial and by each service branch's regulations.
Non-judicial punishment proceedings are known by different terms among the services. In the Army and the Air Force, non-judicial punishment is referred to as Article 15; in the Marine Corps it is called being "NJP'd," being sent to "Office Hours," or satirically amongst the junior ranks, "Ninja Punched." The Navy and the Coast Guard call non-judicial punishment captain's mast or admiral's mast, depending on the rank of the commanding officer.
Prior to imposition of NJP, the commander will notify the accused of the commander's intention to impose punishment, the nature of the misconduct alleged, supporting evidence, and a statement of the accused's rights under the UCMJ. All service members, except those embarked or attached to a vessel currently away from its homeport, have a right to refuse NJP and request a court-martial. If the accused does not accept the NJP, the NJP hearing is terminated and the commander must make the decision of whether to process the service member for court-martial. If the accused accepts NJP, he or she, plus a representative if desired, will attend the hearing conducted by the commander. The accused may present evidence and witnesses to the commander. The commander must consider any information offered during the hearing, and must be personally convinced that the service member committed misconduct before imposing punishment.
Maximum penalties depend on the rank of the accused and that of the officer imposing punishment:
If the officer imposing punishment holds General Court Martial authority, or if the commanding officer is of the grade O-7 or greater
By Commanding Officers of the grades O-4 to O-6
By Commanding Officers of the grades O-1 to O-3
By Officers In Charge (OIC)
There are three types of non-judicial punishment commonly imposed.
Summary Article 15: (O-3 and below) commanders and commissioned OIC may impose:
Company Grade (O-3 or below) commanders may impose the above plus:
Field Grade (O-4 to O-6) may impose:
The punishments listed above may be combined (with certain limitations listed in the Manual for Courts-Martial, Part 5, Section 5(d)). For example, extra duties, restriction and forfeiture of pay, and reduction in grade could be imposed.
If the member considers the punishment to be unjust or to be disproportionate to the misconduct committed, he or she may appeal the NJP to a higher authority. This is usually the next officer in the chain of command. Upon considering the appeal, the higher authority may set aside the NJP, decrease the severity of the punishment, or may deny the appeal. They may not increase the severity of the punishment.
Personnel are permitted to refuse NJP in favor of a court-martial; this might be done in cases where they do not feel their Commanding Officer will give them a fair hearing. But this option exposes them to a possible criminal court conviction. Navy and Marine Corps personnel assigned to or embarked aboard ship do not have the option of refusing NJP, nor can they appeal the decision of the officer imposing punishment; they may only appeal the severity of the punishment.
In naval tradition, mast is the traditional location of the non-judicial hearing under which a commanding officer studies and disposes of cases involving those in his command.
If the individual conducting the proceeding is either a captain, or a lower ranking officer (typically a commander or lieutenant commander) serving as commanding officer of a naval or coast guard vessel, an aviation squadron, or similar command afloat or ashore, then the proceeding is referred to as a captain's mast.
A captain's mast or admiral's mast is a procedure whereby the commanding officer must:
A captain's mast is not:
The term mast may also refer to when a captain or commanding officer makes him/herself available to hear concerns, complaints, or requests from the crew. Traditionally, on a naval vessel, the captain would stand at the main mast of that vessel when holding mast. The crew, who by custom did not speak with the captain, could speak to him directly at these times. It could also refer to the naval punishment of tying one to a mast and lashing them with a whip.
In modern times, a meritorious mast refers to the commanding officer taking this time to single out a member of the crew for praise and present written recognition of work well done.