Two Philadelphia corrections officers have been charged with aggravated assault, official oppression, and other crimes in the beatings of two incarcerated men in July — an incident made public after The Inquirer obtained and published surveillance footage of the assault.
Jean Castor, 54, of West Oak Lane, a 15-year employee of Philadelphia Department of Prisons, and Terrell Felts, 32, a 10-year veteran and Tioga resident, were arrested Wednesday, court records show, and released on unsecured $75,000 bail. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office also charged Castor with possession of an instrument of crime for allegedly using his jail-issued walkie-talkie to strike a man on the head. Attempts to reach the two men were unsuccessful.
David Robinson, president of Local 159 of AFSCME District Council 33, said the correctional officers’ union would not be representing them in the criminal cases and declined to comment further.
The incident occurred by a bank of phones at Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility, which houses 2,237 men in the city jail complex in Northeast Philadelphia.
According to the incident report and a firsthand account, an incarcerated man, Amir McClennan, was making a phone call without permission when Castor interrupted him. McClennan threw the first punch after Castor ended his phone call. (In recent months, prisoners’ frustration over lack of access to phone calls or showers for several days running has repeatedly led to violent and destructive incidents at the jail.)
After that, the video shows, Felts and other officers quickly grabbed McClennan and began to pummel him as they attempted to bring him to the ground. That’s when Castor allegedly picked up his walkie-talkie and began using it to repeatedly strike McClennan in the head.
The video appears to show Felts kicking McClennan in the head, before a second prisoner, Jose Gonzalez, tackles Felts. After that, Felts and Castor appear to assault Gonzalez — Felts kicking and stomping on his head and Castor striking him with the walkie-talkie — leaving a smear of blood across the linoleum floor.
Several other officers who repeatedly attempted to intervene and calm Felts appear to narrowly avoid being struck as well.
District Attorney Larry Krasner said in a statement that he would “continue to press for answers” from city and jail officials.
“At a time when we have far more questions than answers about unsafe conditions and staffing levels in Philadelphia jails, this incident should disturb all of our consciences,” he said. “People who staff and secure jails deserve safe and healthy working conditions, and should be expected to perform their duties with integrity.”
Representatives of Prisons Commissioner Blanche Carney and Mayor Jim Kenney declined to comment except to say Felts is no longer employed with city prisons. Castor will be interviewed by the prisons’ Office of Professional Compliance and will receive an immediate suspension pending a disciplinary hearing, a spokesperson said.
Dylan Hastings, a lawyer for McClennan, said his client was grateful to learn that criminal charges had been filed.
“The District Attorney’s decision to file charges against these officers shows that this administration takes prisoners’ rights seriously,” he said in a statement. “It is our hope that such action will draw public attention to what is transpiring in our prisons and help prevent future occurrences of a similar nature.”