Family of Tyrone Briggs, killed at the age of 29 by SCI-Mahanoy staff, reach historic settlement with Pennsylvania Department of Corrections

The monetary settlement is the largest reported award in any Pennsylvania case involving the death of a person in custody and brings about policy changes for staff training, medical care, and OC-spray use on incarcerated persons with respiratory illnesses and disabilities.

September 8, 2021

Contact:  William Lukas, Director of Communications • Abolitionist Law Center  

PHILADELPHIA – The family of Tyrone Briggs, a 29-year-old Black man with asthma who was killed by staff at State Correctional Institution (SCI) Mahanoy in 2019, have reached a settlement with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC). The settlement amounts to a total $8,500,000 and ushers in policy changes and medical care protocols related to the use of oleoresin capsicum (OC) spray on incarcerated persons living with respiratory illnesses and disabilities.

The settlement comes six months after Tyrone’s mother, Shaleda Busbee, represented by the Abolitionist Law Center and Kairys, Rudovsky, Messing, Feinberg & Lin LLP, filed suit against the DOC’s prison administration and SCI-Mahanoy staff to hold them accountable for Tyrone’s tragic and preventable death.

“This historic settlement recognizes both the extraordinary misconduct of prison employees who caused Tyrone Briggs’ death and the extraordinary trauma caused to Tyrone’s family,” said Jonathan H. Feinberg, an attorney with the Kairys, Rudovsky firm. “It stands as a message to jail and prison staff everywhere: when you violate the law, you will be held accountable.”

On November 11, 2019, Tyrone was brutalized with multiple cans of OC spray, unloaded by prison guards who proceeded to restrain him during an altercation with another incarcerated person in the yard. After being tackled and handcuffed by the guards, he repeatedly said, “I can’t breathe,” as he attempted to walk to the prison infirmary for treatment. Instead of being treated for an asthma attack that was impairing his breathing, Tyrone’s requests for medical care were ignored as staff moved him from the yard to the infirmary to the solitary confinement unit in less than 20 minutes. Despite his inability to breathe and his losing consciousness prior to arrival in the solitary unit, Tyrone was placed in an empty cell without medical attention while he continued to asphyxiate due to the OC-triggered asthma attack. Although he was under observation, DOC staff did not intervene until well after he had become fully unresponsive. By the time medical staff came to assess him, he had already died.

In the days that followed Tyrone’s death, the DOC suspended more than a dozen medical staff and correctional officers, while parents Shaleda and Montrell ceased their homecoming plans for Tyrone: his death came soon before he was eligible for parole after serving 13 years in prison since the age of 15. 

Shaleda filed suit against the DOC in federal court on December 22, 2020, and, in her complaint alleged that the defendants engaged in excessive force, an unconstitutional denial of medical care, and a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), all of which led to Tyrone’s death.

Memorial montage of Tyrone with friends and family.

As part of the settlement, in addition to the payment of monetary damages, the DOC agreed to institute critical changes to prison staff training on OC spray and medical care protocols concerning the use of OC spray against individuals incarcerated in DOC facilities. Under the agreement, training on the heightened risk that OC spray poses to incarcerated asthmatics is now mandated for all correctional staff new hires, as is annual training for all medical staff who oversee the care of incarcerated persons living with respiratory illnesses and disabilities. The settlement also calls for increased medical examinations, observations, and contact with on-call medical providers when an incarcerated person living with respiratory illnesses and disabilities comes into contact with OC spray.

“This historic settlement not only reflects the enduring strength of the Busbees, but also reflects the strength of organized resistance to the brutality and inhumanity meted out by the prison system. Tyrone’s life was treated as if he was disposable,” said Robert Saleem Holbook, Executive Director of the Abolitionist Law Center. “Disposable is how so many incarcerated people, especially people living with disabilities and chronic illnesses, are deemed by the prison guards and administration. This case underscores the power of litigation and advocacy centered by victims of the carceral state. It is a reminder that people in prison are not disposable and that we will bring serious consequences if they are treated as such.”

Shaleda Busbee, the Administrator of the Estate of Tyrone Briggs, was the plaintiff in the lawsuit. The DOC, Superintendent DelBalso, Deputy Superintendent Stetler, and 11 John Does were the defendants. The case was filed in the federal court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania on December 22, 2020.

Click here to view the settlement agreement and release of claims.



“Pa. prisons pledge reform and pay $8.5 million after Philly man died from pepper spray” by Samantha Melamed for The Philadelphia Inquirer (09/08/2021)

Lawsuit Filed Seeking Immediate Treatment for Hepatitis C


September 26, 2018


(Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania). The Amistad Law Project, The Abolitionist Law Center, and the Law Office of Carey Shenkman on Monday  filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court for the Middle District of Pennsylvania to compel the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (DOC) to treat Lester Eaddy for Hepatitis C. Since 2012, Lester Eaddy, housed at SCI Mahanoy, has unsuccessfully petitioned the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections to treat his medical condition, even though the DOC has known about his Hepatitis C diagnosis for over two decades.

At issue is the refusal of the  DOC to give Mr. Eaddy Direct Acting Anti-Viral drugs (“DAAs”) to cure his Hepatitis C. The DAA medication is known to have a 90% success rate in treating individuals who suffer from chronic Hepatitis C, but the DOC denies providing potentially life-saving DAAs in favor of a costly and burdensome monitoring program. Mr. Eaddy’s illness is exacerbated by the fact he also suffers from diabetes, anemia, and kidney disease which means the denial of medical care not only subjects him to irreversible harm but also places him at risk of death.

Morally and legally, the DOC is failing in its job to ensure Mr. Eaddy receives appropriate medical care. We demand he receive DAA treatment immediately.

While there are over 5,000 incarcerated persons who have Hepatitis C, the DOC ceased treating incarcerated persons in 2013, when DAA medications became readily available. The DOC instead created a treatment protocol to limit incarcerated persons access to DAA medications despite the epidemic levels of diagnosis. This protocol was found to be “a conscious disregard of a known risk of advanced cirrhosis and death…” and ruled unconstitutional in 2017.  The DOC refuses to treat Hepatitis C patients with DAA medication instead chooses to ration care to preserve their bottom line risking lives such as Mr. Eaddy’s in the process.  Moreover, the DOC protocol falls below the recommendations set forth by the American Association for the Study of Liver Diseases (AASLD) and supported by the Center for Disease Control (CDC).

Plaintiffs submitted an expert report from Dr. Stacey Beth Trookin , who sits on the Treatment Guidance Panel for the AASLD and the Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA), finding the current DOC protocol is substandard care that is medically indefensible. Additionally, she found the DAA treatments are cost effective and medically necessary as a matter of public health, especially when the individuals are suffering from other illnesses such as diabetes.

Even though Lester Eaddy’s preexisting medical conditions put him at a Priority level 3, signaling the necessity of the treatment, he has yet to receive the DAA medications. Since the DOC continuously fails to live up to the recommended standard of care and treat individual with the DAA treatments by ignoring Mr. Eaddy’s repeated request for medical care, this lawsuit seeks a preliminary injunction to ensure Lester Eaddy receives the DAA treatment.


Bret Grote, Abolitionist Law Center,, 412-654-9070


Action Alert – Demand an end to Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson’s 34 years in solitary confinement

 Call and write PA DOC Secretary Wetzel today: 717-728-4109; 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050

 Cetewayo – A case of 34 years in the hole

 Arthur “Cetewayo” Johnson is a politicized prisoner who has been held in solitary confinement by the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections (PA DOC) since 1979.

Despite his exemplary disciplinary record of the past 25 years, and his recently turning 61 years old, Cetewayo continues to be subjected to 23-24-hour lockdown in solitary confinement with its attendant austerity, monotony, and deprivations. He has not had human contact with anybody except prison guards in over 30 years.

This is far and away one of the worst cases of state torture in this country – and that is saying something. Decades of social isolation and sensory deprivation is unfathomable, unconstitutional, and in violation of international human rights standards.

On October 3, 2013, Cetewayo had his annual review hearing at SCI Frackville, where officials assess whether to continue his solitary confinement. The final decision will be made by Secretary John Wetzel, so we are asking people to contact his office TODAY and demand an end to the torture.

Call/Write to: PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050; Phone number: 717-728-4109; Fax: 717-728-4178

Additional background and Talking Points for Action Alert:

Convicted of homicide and sentenced to life without parole in 1971 when he was 18 years old, Cetewayo soon developed a close relationship with imprisoned members of the Black Liberation Movement. As happened to so many of his generation who took up the struggle for human rights, Cetewayo became a target for severe state repression.

Cetewayo was accused of being involved in nine attempted escapes from 1977 to 1987, although several of these were likely fabrications engineered by prison officials. Cetewayo never got off prison grounds or escaped custody during any of these alleged attempts.

After these escape attempts his disciplinary record has been exemplary, receiving less than a handful of misconducts for minor rule violations in the last quarter-century. There have been no allegations of – or actual – escape attempts since 1987.

Human rights begin at home. Cetewayo’s case represents a challenge to human rights activists that is long overdue. Ending the torture and repression of political and politicized prisoners is a core part of rebuilding a mass human rights movement within the U.S.

Support the call to release Cetewayo from solitary confinement!

Talking Points

1)   Use his government name (Arthur Johnson) and prison ID #AF3457.

2)   Arthur Johnson has been a model prisoner for a quarter-century, receiving only minor misconducts during this time.

3)   There is no justification for such prolonged solitary confinement. It violates international human rights standards, is cruel and unusual punishment, and is increasingly recognized as torture.

4)   Solitary confinement is not necessary to prevent escapes, which are extremely rare in the PA DOC anyway.

5)   Many prisoners have been successfully transitioned from long-term solitary confinement without incident, and older prisoners are far less likely to present disciplinary problems.

6)   Even if SCI Frackville does not recommend Johnson for release to the general population, Secretary Wetzel has an obligation to overrule the institution and to respect Johnson’s constitutional and human rights.


Thirty-four consecutive years in solitary is more than long enough!

DEMAND that Cetewayo be placed in general population IMMEDIATELY!

Call/Write to: PA DOC Secretary John Wetzel, 1920 Technology Parkway, Mechanicsburg, PA 17050; Phone number: 717-728-4109; Fax: 717-728-4178