Hurt2Healing Magazine


19 prisoners signed affidavits stating they saw guards beat Samuel Harrell to death; no justice

19 prisoners signed affidavits stating they saw guards beat Samuel Harrell to death; no justice

read in: 6 min


By Shaun King

Nineteen different inmates at New York’s Fishkill Correctional Facility saw guards beat Samuel Harrell to death. In a painfully thorough new article by Michael Winerip and Michael Schwirtz of the New York Times, inmates describe a living hell on earth not just for Harrell, but for so many of his peers who are locked far away in the poorly managed prison, out of sight of both true scrutiny and compassion.Struggling through mental illness most of his adult life, on this past April 21, for 30-year-old Samuel “J-Rock” Harrell the struggle ended in about the most horrific way it ever could. Often out of touch with reality, and five years away from his sentence ending, Harrell packed a bag and told the guards his beloved sister was there to pick him up. Of course, she wasn’t, but he sincerely didn’t seem to know that.

Not long after, he got into a confrontation with corrections officers, was thrown to the floor and was handcuffed. As many as 20 officers — including members of a group known around the prison as the Beat Up Squad — repeatedly kicked and punched Mr. Harrell, who is black, with some of them shouting racial slurs, according to more than a dozen inmate witnesses. “Like he was a trampoline, they were jumping on him,” said Edwin Pearson, an inmate who watched from a nearby bathroom.Mr. Harrell was then thrown or dragged down a staircase, according to the inmates’ accounts. One inmate reported seeing him lying on the landing, “bent in an impossible position.”

What other inmates described is unthinkable, and exposes that officials were attempting to create an alibi from the start.

“I saw the officers kicking him, jumping on his head multiple times and screaming, ‘Stop resisting,’ even though I didn’t see him moving,” wrote Mr. Pearson, who has since been released after serving two years on a weapons charge.None of the affidavits or letters mentioned Mr. Harrell’s fighting back or speaking during the encounter. Several said that once he was on the floor, handcuffed, he stopped moving, and a few of the inmates speculated he may have already been dead by then.

He did die there.The prison called an ambulance and made up a story stating that Harrell had overdosed on K2, an illegal drug often smuggled into prison. Except, facts matter and the autopsy showed Harrell hadn’t taken any illegal drugs at all. He was beaten to death.

Like Eric Garner before him, the coroner ruled Harrell’s death a homicide. In other words, he wouldn’t have died on his own had guards not killed him.

Yet, in spite of it all, zero prison guards have even been suspended over this. Nobody has lost a job. Obviously, nobody has been arrested.

This may be hard to imagine, because life outside of prison walls is mighty unjust nowadays, but some of the most evil, brutal, horrific injustice in the history of our nation happens in our nation’s jails and prisons.

It’s ugly. It’s America, baby.

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