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$373,000 Settlement in New York City Juvenile Facility “Building Tenders” Suit

Echoing the violence of the Texas prison system during the 1970s where prisoners guarded other prisoners under an abusive practice known as the “building tenders” system, the City of New York has agreed to pay $373,000 to settle a lawsuit involving similar practices at the city’s Robert N. Davoren Complex (RNDC).

Using a system known as “The Program,” corrupt RNDC guards gave selected juvenile prisoners free reign to exact violence against other prisoners in order to maintain order at the facility. The guards, too lazy to do their jobs, often stood by and watched while prisoners were beaten. [See: PLN, Feb. 2010, p.28].

Tyreek Shuford was one such prisoner. In March 2007, Shuford was assaulted by several other prisoners who had been given “authority” to maintain order at RNDC. The attack was unprovoked and guards merely stood by and watched while the assault took place. Shuford asked for medical attention for his injuries, but the guards refused.

Almost a month later, Shuford was assaulted again. Instead of other prisoners, though, it was the guards themselves who attacked Shuford. That violent assault was also unprovoked. Shuford suffered multiple nasal bone fractures, a left orbital fracture, a depressed zygomatic fracture, and multiple cuts and bruises to his face and body.

Shuford brought suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, arguing that the defendants used excessive force against him and failed to protect him from assault. Shuford also alleged municipal liability against the city based on a pattern of abuse and violence at RNDC.

In settling the case, New York City agreed to pay Shuford $373,000. Defendant Darlene Sanders, a guard at RNDC, paid Shuford $200. Defendant James Davis, another RNDC guard, agreed to pay $1,500, with the district court entering a judgment to that effect on April 2, 2010. Disciplinary action was taken against both Davis and Sanders.

Shuford was represented by attorneys with the New York law firm of Emery, Celli, Brinckerhoff & Abady LLP, and by the Legal Aid Society. See: Shuford v. City of New York, U.S.D.C. (S.D. NY), Case No. 1:09-cv-00945-PKC.

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Related legal case

Shuford v. City of New York