The family of Armani Faison, who police say was raped and killed by his cellmate in a Philadelphia jail last year, has sued the city and six prison employees including Corrections Commissioner Blanche Carney, saying they were responsible for his death.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Philadelphia, blames the city for placing Faison in a cell with a prisoner who was known to be violent and then failing to protect him as he was attacked and screamed for help. Faison’s father, Allrich Jean, announced the suit Thursday during a news conference with his lawyers in Center City.
“Armani has died a horrible death in the prison system of Philadelphia,” Jean said. “He was tortured by an inmate and no one was there to protect him or help him from the inmate. Basically, what happened to Armani, I don’t want to happen to any other person, any other family.”
Jean, 63, a retired New York state prison guard, said no one from the city prisons has contacted his family to explain what happened or to offer condolences.
Faison family attorney John Coyle said that in addition to suing the city for $20 million, he is calling on Mayor Jim Kenney to replace Carney, who he said has failed to properly staff the city’s prisons, leading to the deaths of five inmates over nine months last year.
“This is a complete failure of leadership,” he said. “We ask for Mayor Kenney to do what’s been long overdue, and call for the resignation of Commissioner Carney.”
A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office, Kevin Lessard, said late Thursday that Kenney would not call for the commissioner to step down. “The mayor supports the tireless efforts of Commissioner Carney and her team to keep [prison] employees and incarcerated persons safe,” he said.
Lawyer Allen W. Rogers, who also represents Faison’s family, said: “This is every family’s worst nightmare, every person jailed’s worst nightmare, to receive a call that your family member has been killed and so viciously brutalized. So, we’re not just seeking justice for this family. We are seeking reform so that no family has to endure what this family has.”
Faison, 35, was arrested for shoplifting, simple assault for tussling with store personnel, and arson — the latter because Faison, who had mental health issues, set his pants on fire while in police custody. He was not immediately released to await trial because the shoplifting arrest meant he had violated his probation for a previous conviction on a theft charge in Delaware County.
He was taken to Curran-Fromhold Correctional Facility in Northeast Philadelphia in March of last year. Three days later, he was put into a cell with Kevin Massey. The cell had room because a previous inmate had been moved after Massey attempted to rape him there, Coyle said.
Authorities have said Massey at some point activated the cell’s sprinkler system, which flooded it. Still, the suit said, no one came to Faison’s aid.
“Armani’s body was found the following morning naked, bloodied, and floating in six inches of water,” according to the suit.
Faison’s injuries included scrapes and bruises to his nose, clavicle, shoulder, back, arms, legs, and neck, and extensive internal hemorrhaging, the suit says. He was pronounced dead at Nazareth Hospital shortly after a correctional officer discovered his body.
Massey, 32, has been charged with rape and murder in connection with Faison’s death. He also faces charges in the alleged attack on the other prisoner.
While Faison was being assaulted, no correctional officer was on duty in that unit, according to the suit. The officer who was supposed to be there “abandoned” his post without ensuring a replacement after leaving to work in the kitchen. That guard, the guard who sent him to the kitchen, and the guard who placed Faison in the cell with Massey are named as defendants in the suit.
“That such a horrific occurrence could continue for hours without intervention in the Philadelphia Department of Prisons is the shocking but predictable result of the city’s consistent practice of massively understaffing its jails,” the suit says.
The suit cited a city controller’s report that decried an “unsafe” lack of staffing in Philadelphia jails. From 2019 to April 2021, the report said, correctional staffing in city prisons declined by 440 officers and only 119 new officers were hired, creating what the report called “a tipping point” for the safety of those behind bars.
Among other inmates to be killed in city prisons, Dale Curbean, 60, was found dead in his cell at CFCF, and his cellmate was charged with killing him by striking his head. And last April, authorities said, Christopher Hinkle, 37, was beaten to death by his cellmate, who had a history of committing unprovoked attacks.
Jean, who lives in Howell Township, N.J., said his son grew up in Brooklyn, N.Y., and had a strong work ethic since he was a teen, last working as a mail carrier in Philadelphia. He lost that job due to a bout with mental illness that his father said played a role in his shoplifting arrest.
“I do know that when someone is in jail, basically, the prison is responsible for their safety, their health, and their movement,” said Jean. “The prison system in Philadelphia failed him in all ways.”
Prisons Department spokesperson John Mitchell declined to comment Thursday on the suit, citing the pending litigation. But he said the city was working to recruit more correctional officers .
In addition to the city and Carney, the prison commissioner, named as defendants in the suit are CFCF Warden Michele Farrell, Deputy Warden Nancy Gianetta, and three correctional officers who were not identified by name.