MIAMI – A corrections officer was sentenced to prison today in federal court for a civil rights charge stemming from prisoner abuse that took place at the South Florida Reception Center (SFRC), a state prison in Doral, Fla., the Justice Department announced. Florida Department of Corrections (FDOC) officer Guruba Griffin, 32, was sentenced by District Judge Cecilia Altonaga to serve one year in prison, followed by one year of supervised release.
On Dec. 13, 2011, Griffin entered a guilty plea to one count of deprivation of rights under color of law. Griffin’s plea followed a trial in October 2011 where a jury was unable to reach a verdict as to his involvement in a civil rights conspiracy against inmates at SFRC. Griffin’s co-defendant, Scott Butler, was acquitted by the same jury, while a second jury found Sergeant Alexander McQueen guilty of conspiracy against civil rights and obstruction of justice and convicted Officer Steven Dawkins for obstruction of justice. McQueen and Dawkins were sentenced to twelve months in prison and one month in prison, respectively, in January of this year.
According to evidence presented at trial, on Feb. 25, 2009, SFRC corrections officers physically abused inmates by choking, punching and striking them with wooden broom handles. The officers further forced the inmates to fight one another. Additionally, McQueen and Dawkins falsified reports relating to these incidents.
“Abuse of power by corrections officers who violate the civil rights of those in their custody will not be tolerated,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “The Justice Department will continue to vigorously prosecute those who cross the line to engage in acts of criminal violence.”
“When individuals sworn to uphold the law instead abuse their power and infringe upon the civil rights of others, the public’s confidence in our system of justice suffers,” said Wifredo A. Ferrer, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida. “The U.S. Attorney’s Office remains committed to protecting everyone’s civil rights and promoting confidence in our system.”
“Officer Guruba Griffin violated the civil rights of prisoners under his control at a Florida Department of Corrections facility,” said Special Agent in Charge John V. Gillies of FBI Miami Division. “His abusive treatment of these prisoners damaged the public’s trust in law enforcement. The message to corrupt corrections officers is clear; engage in criminal misconduct and the FBI and our partners will bring you to justice.”
This case was investigated by the FBI and the Inspector General’s Office, Florida Department of Corrections, and was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Susan Rhee Osborne of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida and Senior Litigation Counsel Gerard Hogan and Trial Attorney Henry Leventis of the Civil Rights Division.