Death-Making Institutions: How Police, Probation, and the Judiciary Caused Gerald Thomas to Die in Jail

In ‘Death-Making Institutions’ (2022), ALC Staff Attorney Dolly Prabhu connects the death of 26 year-old Gerald Thomas to the racialized violence of Allegheny County institutions and state actors. Prabhu examines how instruments of policing and punishment including pretextual traffic stops and pretrial detention, and the use of probation detainers and solitary confinement, support the maintenance of local “death-making institutions,” a term coined by abolitionist Mariame Kaba.

Judge Anthony Mariani of the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas is a focal point of the report; his probation detainer lodged against Gerald Thomas kept Thomas incarcerated at ACJ (in solitary confinement) for nearly a year prior to his death, on the basis of charges that were the product of illegal police conduct, and were eventually dropped.

This report was published the same day that ALC Court Watch announced it had filed 62 judicial misconduct complaints against Mariani. Prabhu and volunteers with ALC Court Watch observed Mariani’s court proceedings from March 2021 to March 2021, and recorded countless instances of Mariani verbally abusing defendants, attorneys, and his own staff, demonstrating a lack of understanding of relevant legal standards, and making racist comments about Black defendants’ physiques.

Date of Publication: July 5, 2022

Lead Author: Dolly Prabhu; design by William Lukas