Navy captains can still dock the pay or shore leave of misbehaving sailors under new rules take effect on New Year's Day—but they won't be able to chuck them in the brig with nothing to eat but bread and water. One of dozens of changes in a Uniform Code of Military Justice update signed into law by Barack Obama in 2016 and amended by President Trump this year ends the practice of confinement with "diminished rations" as punishment for minor misconduct by low-ranking sailors, the New York Times reports. The practice, introduced after Congress banned flogging in 1862, was based on a naval punishment that the British abolished in 1891.
Commanders, who used to have the power to impose the punishment on low-ranking sailors for up to three days, are split on the move. "It sounds medieval, and that is sort of the point," retired Capt. Kevin Eyer tells the Times. "Sometimes you just need to scare a kid. We want them to succeed, but you need to give them a kick in the pants." Retired Adm. James Stavridis, however, tells the Navy Times that it's "about time" the punishment was relegated to the pages of history books. " In my time as a CO, I never used bread and water," he says. "Even two decades ago, it seemed a really anachronistic, dumb sort of sanction." (In Canada, meanwhile, a judge has ruled that serving powdered milk doesn't constitute torture.)