San Francisco Prison Guards Forced Inmates to Fight 'Like Game of Thrones'

Human Rights

The Department of Justice has been asked to investigate after prison guards allegedly forced inmates to engage in gladiator-style fights for “sadistic pleasure” and betting, in scenes the authorities said evoked "Game of Thrones."

An inmate at the San Francisco County jail who weighed 150 pounds was allegedly forced to fight a 350-pound inmate, under threat of being beaten up and shot with a Taser by guards, Jeff Adachi, the San Francisco County public defender, said in a press conference on Thursday.

Four sheriff’s deputies have been accused by three inmates of orchestrating vicious fights for their own amusement while encouraging them with chants. Adachi said the deputy who reportedly orchestrated the activities was accused in 2006 of sexually assaulting inmates, in a case that was later settled out of court.

“I can only describe this as an outrageously sadistic scenario that sounds like it’s out of 'Game of Thrones',” Adachi said.

All four sheriff’s deputies were put on administrative leave on Thursday, and the two inmates cited by Adachi were moved to different prisons.

A recording of the lighter-weight inmate, Rico Palikiko Garcia, was played by Adachi on Thursday. Garcia described “deputies betting against me and forcing me to fight, and if I don’t fight then he’s basically telling me that he was going to beat me up, cuff me up, Tase me all at once.”

He ended up with suspected broken ribs, and his weightier opponent was also injured, Adachi said.

They were allegedly told they would be beaten up by the deputies if they sought medical attention, and that if they did do so, they should say they fell out of their bunks. The inmates were told they would be rewarded with hamburgers if they won the fights but squirted with pepper spray, beaten and transferred to dangerous housing quarters and deprived of food, if they refused to fight, Adachi said.

Stanley Harris, the largest man in his group of inmates, was taunted by deputies, who forced him to do pushups to train for the fights.

Deputies arranged for the fights to take place on the seventh floor of the jail, the public defender said.

San Francisco County Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi has asked the Department of Justice to intervene and conduct a federal investigation.

An attorney for the deputies’ union called the allegations “exaggerated” and said the fighting was “little more than horseplay.”

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