Three Philadelphia prison guards were arrested this morning and charged with aggravated assault and other charges for beating up an inmate, the city’s district attorney announced.
Corrections officers Milton Gibbs, Terrance Bailey, and Shaun Lowe repeatedly kicked and punched a male inmate at the Philadelphia Industrial Correctional Center in June, and then tried to cover it up, D.A. R. Seth Williams said in a statement. The three officers surrendered today.
The assault took place on June 21, when Gibbs and Bailey allegedly entered the victim’s cell and started punching and kicking him. They then handcuffed him and walked him down a staircase while continuing to hit him. They knocked him to the ground, dragged him into an open room, and began to stomp on him, joined by Lowe, according to the complaint. During the alleged assault, the victim lost consciousness at least twice.
The officers then tried to cover up what they had done, prosecutors say, by submitting a mental health report claiming that the inmate had harmed himself. Officer Gibbs allegedly tried to bribe the inmate not to report the assault with food from the staff kitchen. In written reports, they denied that the assault had taken place.
However, portions of the assault were captured on security cameras, and the Department of Prisons referred the case to the District Attorney’s office.
“We cannot stand for any kind of assault, and this attack on a handcuffed inmate by sworn corrections officers is egregious,” Williams said in a statement. “Every inmate who is held in our prisons deserves to be treated with dignity and respect.”
The victim, whose name was not released, is still incarcerated in the prison, DA spokesperson Cameron Kline told me. Video evidence that will be used during the trial is also not being released, Kline said.
The three guards are currently suspended without pay. Firing officers, even those charged with brutality, can be difficult because of prison guard unions.
This isn’t the first time that guards at the prison have attracted controversy. Justice Department data from 2013 said that the prison had one of the highest rates in the country of reported sexual assault by guards against prisoners. Last September, several guards were charged with bringing contraband drugs and cellphones into the prison.