Escorting a Prisoner to the Brig

On one of my duty days in 1975 when the U.S.S. Chicago CG-11 was in port at North Island in San Diego Bay, I was assigned the task of escorting a prisoner from the ship’s brig (jail) to a larger brig run by the Marines at the San Diego Shipyard. I knew several days beforehand that I would have to take a prisoner to the brig and it worried me. What would the prisoner be like? Would he try to escape? Would he try to beat me up? All sorts of worries played through my mind. Of course, several years previously, I had seen a movie, The Last Detail, about a similar situation where a couple of sailors had to escort a prisoner to a brig and had run into a lot of adventures, so I was dreading this assignment.

As a back story: several months before, a new man had reported to the ON Division, where I was assigned, but he turned out to be very unreliable. He would sneak away and not do his assigned duties, and when we looked for him, we would find him playing cards or goofing off. About this same time, we started noticing that some of our tools were missing. Other divisions were also reporting missing tools.

Our division management—the Chief Petty Officer and the Division Officer—talked to the new man numerous times, but he would not shape up. Finally, our division management turned him in to the ship’s Captain, for a court martial. He was demoted and was transferred to another division on the ship, where I lost track of him. It appeared, however, that he had done just as badly in his new assignment as he had done in his original one, because he had another court martial, and was ordered to a brig that was off the ship.

I often had Shore Patrol (Military Police) duty when we were in port, and somehow I managed to be assigned escort duty for this prisoner when he was removed from the ship. When my duty day arrived, I went down to the ship’s brig to get the prisoner, and it turned out to be the man who had been demoted from the ON Division. The regular Shore Patrol (Military Police) on the base had found a cache of tools that he had stolen, and had found the pawn shop where he was selling them. He was up for a dishonorable discharge.

I signed the papers indicating that I was taking the prisoner to his new brig, and I went up to the bridge and checked out the ship’s vehicle, and received instructions from the Officer of the Day.

Then I headed out with the prisoner. We talked a little bit during our ride across the Coronado Bridge and onto the sprawling Naval Shipyard base, where the Marines would take charge of the prisoner. He seemed fairly friendly, and not as angry as I had envisioned. My next potential problem also did not materialize. I had been worried that I would not be able find the brig on the big, chaotic shipyard base, where I had never been before. But the brig was right where I had been told it was—very easy to spot. I got out, taking the paper work and the prisoner with me, and walked him over the check-in area for the prison. I turned him over to the Marine that was standing duty at the entrance to the brig.

It turned out to be very simple job, not as bad as I was making it in my imagination.

The Last Detail

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