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'Goon Squad' Investigation Validated Navy Brig Procedures

Marines take a test in completion of a chaser course at Marine Corps Base Quantico in May 2013. Chasers are certified Marines who work with various types of people, including those going to and from the brig. (US Marine Corps photo)
Marines take a test in completion of a chaser course at Marine Corps Base Quantico in May 2013. Chasers are certified Marines who work with various types of people, including those going to and from the brig. (US Marine Corps photo)

After an investigation determined allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Naval Consolidated Brig Chesapeake were unfounded, the head of all Navy brigs said he's fully satisfied that the facility is operating according to standards, and has not ordered any policy changes or checks in light of the allegations.

Rear Adm. Richard Brown, commander of Navy Personnel Command, told Military.com in a brief interview last week that he had ordered the investigation after the allegations came to light, sending a Navy captain down to Chesapeake, Va., for an in-depth review.

"In my mind, there are no unanswered questions," he said. "The investigation was very thorough and very detailed. It was very thorough, it was very specific, and [the allegations were] just unfounded."

At issue in the investigation was a complaint by a sailor, Seaman Samuel Perkins, who alleged a "goon squad" of guards at the Chesapeake facility were unduly rough with prisoners, and that guards had inappropriately touched him during a frisk and had described him using a racial slur.

Perkins' allegations were supported by several more senior officers in the same brig, including a retired Marine Corps colonel and Lt. Cmdr. Edward Lin, a Navy flight officer awaiting high-profile court-martial proceedings on charges of espionage.

The Virginian-Pilot reported that the investigation determined the allegations were unfounded, and the guards accused by the prisoners were actually better at enforcing the rules than other staff, who took a more lax approach.

An attorney for Lin, Navy Lt. Clay Bridges, told the Virginian-Pilot he took issue with the investigation's findings, complaining that the investigator did not interview key individuals, including Perkins and a guard who may have witnessed some of the alleged mistreatment.

Despite these claims, Brown told Military.com he was satisfied that he had a full picture of what was taking place at the brig.

"As a matter of fact, the investigation really validated our procedures, and our policies are right in accordance with where they should be," he said.

The Navy operates consolidated brig facilities in Chesapeake, Charleston, S.C., and Miramar in San Diego. They are subject to accreditation by the American Correctional Association, which reviews most state and all federal correctional facilities. The brigs are also in compliance with the Prison Rape Elimination Act standards, which require detailed inspections, he said.

It's not the first time in recent history that troubling allegations have been leveled against Navy brig staff. In 2013, Marine Corps Times published an in-depth report after Shane Bardes, a former Marine serving a sentence for rape, alleged he was sexually harassed and assaulted by female brig guards at the Miramar facility.

Ultimately, one of the guards he accused, Marine Lance Cpl. Lacey Kohlman, was convicted of dereliction of duty and sentenced to five months' imprisonment in 2014.

Brown said he couldn't address previous instances or allegations of wrongdoing, but emphasized he was confident in the brig staff at every Navy facility.

"I don't think that anybody signs up to the Navy to go work in a Navy brig," he said. "But it is a critical mission to the readiness of our fleet, and the men and women who serve in the brigs do a great job. They're great Americans, they're following all the procedures ... I'm proud of them."

-- Hope Hodge Seck can be reached at hope.seck@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @HopeSeck.

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