Federal Bureau of Prisons accused of discrimination in suit by supervisor at Phila. Detention Center

By Jon Campisi | Nov 19, 2013

A supervisor at the federal detention center in Philadelphia has filed a civil action against the U.S. Justice Department stemming from what he alleges was discriminatory treatment following the suicide of an inmate.

Harold Mills, who resides in Philadelphia, and works as unit manager for the Federal Bureau of Prisons, claims he was reassigned following the hanging death of a Vietnamese inmate who spoke no English in early January 2007.

The suicide occurred in a holding area as the inmate was awaiting release to the general prison population.

Following the death and before any investigation commenced, the warden, identified as Troy Levi, reassigned Mills from his supervisory unit manager position to that of “special assistant,” the lawsuit states.

While the plaintiff didn’t lose any pay due to the reassignment, he claims his reputation took a hit because he was identified as the target of a subsequent investigation into the inmate’s suicide.

The Office of Internal Affairs ultimately determined that Mills was culpable in the death of the inmate.

Months after the OIA’s report was issued, Mills was returned to his prior role at the prison.

The complaint alleges that the warden never apprised Mills of the results of the investigation, never provided Mills with an explanation of why he was being reassigned in the first place, and never issued to Mills any written criticism of his conduct or performance and never charged Mills with any misconduct relating to the suicide.

Following his initial reassignment, Mills filed a discrimination complaint alleging the bureau discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender when it reassigned him.

Following a hearing before an administrative judge of the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, Mills sought to amend his complaint in which he would allege the agency engaged in reprisal against him when Levi, the warden, “deliberately provided untruthful sworn testimony” during the hearing and when Michael Rank, a lawyer with the Bureau of Prisons, failed to make the untruthful testimony known to the administrative judge, the complaint states.

Levi was soon indicted on charges of witness tampering, obstruction of justice and making a false statement, the complaint notes, citing the case of USA v. Levi.

Rank unexpectedly died on Jan. 18, 2012, the record shows.

Mills never prevailed at the administration level on his discrimination claim.

This past August, the record shows, the bureau issued a final order accepting the administrative judge’s determination of “no discrimination” in the plaintiff’s case.

In his lawsuit, Mills, who at the time of the inmate’s suicide was the only black male supervisor at the Federal Detention Center in Philadelphia, alleges that the agency discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender, and that the agency treated him differently than other employees involved in the care and treatment of the deceased inmate.

The suit also says management “intentionally overlooked the shortcomings, deficiencies and negligent conduct of others,” instead focusing exclusively on Mills in order to solely blame the plaintiff for the events surrounding the inmate’s suicide.

Mills also claims the agency retaliated against him because he had filed a charge of discrimination with the EEOC.

Mills seeks declaratory judgment that the agency discriminated against him on the basis of race and gender.

He also seeks lost promotions, expungement of derogatory and negative information in any records concerning the matter, unspecified compensatory damages, attorney’s fees and litigation costs.

The plaintiff is being represented by Philadelphia attorney Dennis L. Friedman, who filed the complaint on Nov. 15 at the Eastern District of Pennsylvania.


The federal case number is 2:13-cv-06673-RBS.

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