Video: Local Jail Guard, Never Disciplined, Kicks Prisoner In Head

By Sophie Lucido Johnson in News on Apr 21, 2016 5:50PM

Footage of a guard from a Cook County Jail continuously punching and kicking a prisoner in the ribs, stomach, and head was published on Wednesday. The video, posted to YouTube by the Better Government Association, shows the inmate altercating with the guard before being thrown down and enduring repeated blows even after he has fallen to the ground.

The Chicago Sun-Times found that the incident, which occurred on July 4, 2013, didn’t yield any consequences for the guard. Branden Norise, the guard in the video, was not fired and still works at the prison. At the time of the incident, Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart referred the case to the Cook County's then-State Attorney Anita Alverez, but Norise was never charged with a crime. Norise's current $57,000 yearly salary is paid with taxpayer dollars, the Sun-Times reports.

The man in the video, Randall Brown, said in an interview that he thought Norise should “at a minimum” be fired, according to the Sun-Times. Dart recommended that discipline be taken against Norise, but Dart’s handpicked commissioner over disciplinary matters overruled those recommendations.

This video release comes at the heels of six other videos the Cook County Sheriff’s Office made public last week, which chronicle similar misconduct and violent abuse committed by guards. Fourteen of the officers in those videos—which show several incidents of kicking, punching and dragging of inmates—faced discipline for their actions. Of those disciplined, five were fired.

There are 2,400 cameras at Cook County Jail, surveilling more than 8,000 inmates and a staff of more than 3,000 guards, according to the Sun-Times.

Dart said in an interview with NBC that his transparency around video release is vitally important to build trust among citizens, adding, "The public has a right to know when officers abuse the public trust as well as the ramifications of that abuse." He said that this is the first time videos of this nature have been released by jails voluntarily.

Dart has said that he plans to release a backlog of videos related to past Merit Board decisions; this video may have been part of the backlog, and been published before Dart got to it.

Teamsters Local 700, the jail guards' union, has publicly disparaged Dart for his release of the videos, saying that the release is a one-sided effort by Dart to “advance his political career on the backs of the hardworking correctional officers at the Cook County jail.”