Advocacy Group Says “Aggressive Conduct” Led to SCI Mahanoy Inmate Death
The family of Tyrone Briggs says they “want justice” for their son.
Briggs died in custody at SCI-Mahanoy, in Frackville, on November 11. His family suspects the death is the result of “aggressive conduct” by corrections officers at the prison.
And they’ve been joined in their cause by the Abolitionist Law Center in Pittsburgh.
Abolitionist Law Center Representing Parents of Tyrone Briggs
Per an announcement released on Thursday from Abolitionist Law Center, the group says, “While very little information has been released about Mr. Briggs’ death, there is strong reason to believe that aggressive conduct of DOC staff directly caused it.”
The advocacy group says it’s now representing Briggs’ parents, Shaleda and Ervin Busbee.
“We will accompany and fight with them to ensure that Mr. Briggs’ death does not become yet another extrajudicial killing by the state that goes by without justice and accountability,” their statement reads.
SCI-Mahanoy Reports Inmate Death – Tyrone Briggs
According to a prison statement announcing Briggs’ death, the inmate was “involved in an altercation with another inmate on the walkway near their housing unit. The prison says the following happened after the fight:
- During processing into a restricted housing unit at SCI-Mahanoy, Briggs became unresponsive;
- Medical staff at the prison were notified;
- Briggs is transported to the medical triage area at SCI-Mahanoy: CPR initiated;
- At 4:56 p.m. on Nov. 11, Dr. Muhammad Saifullah pronounces Briggs dead.
Right now, Pennsylvania State Police have an ongoing investigation at SCI-Mahanoy into Briggs’ death. Meanwhile, Schuylkill County Coroner David Moylan works to determine an official cause of death in Briggs’ case.
Prison Suspends 13 Employees During Investigation
Not soon after State Police launched its investigation, the state’s Dept. of Corrections announced the suspension of 13 SCI-Mahanoy employees without pay. The names of those suspended haven’t been released to the public. DOC says those suspended include “security and medical” staff at the prison.
“Whatever the outcome of this case, we are going to be as transparent as possible, and the DOC will take whatever remedial measures deemed to be necessary,” DOC Secretary John Wetzel says. Wetzel says this incident at SCI-Mahanoy “should not serve to tarnish the reputation of the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections and its 16,000 dedicated men and women.”
According to reports, the head of the Pennsylvania State Corrections Officers Association union objects to the employees being suspended without pay since no cause has been determined.
“Reckless Use of Force on Prisoners”
Even though we’re unclear on what led to Briggs’ death, the Abolitionist Law Center seems to be pushing one theory. It already sees Briggs’ death as a product of a crooked justice system, particularly in prisons.
In its announcement supporting the Busbees, ALC Legal Director Bret Grote says, “Whether committed by a police officer or a prison guard, extrajudicial killings of Black people in this country are an epidemic. Our clients have joined a tragic community of those who have lost loved ones to state violence. We are asking our larger movement family to come together and support them in this time of grief.”
Briggs’ father, Ervin Busbee, echoed those feelings in a statement released with the ALC announcement. He says, “The lives of the inmates in there matter, they are someone’s son, daughter, father, mother, brother or uncle. They are human. Why are you painting my son as an animal? Tyrone’s life mattered.”
It’s easy to understand the Busbees sadness and apparent anger toward the prison right now. Not only are they currently without answers in the death of their son in state custody, they were getting ready to welcome him home after his apparent impending release.
Briggs died at the age of 29 but he’d been in prison since he was 16. He was serving a 15-30 year sentence for raping a child in Philadelphia. The Busbees expected Briggs to be released on parole before the end of 2019.