18 April 2024

South Carolina Jails to Be Investigated After Stories of Abuse and Violence

The Justice Division on Thursday opened a far-reaching civil rights investigation of two troubled jails in South Carolina after experiences of violent and unhealthy residing circumstances, failure to deal with mentally ailing prisoners and the abuse of inmates by guards.

The division initiated a so-called sample or follow investigation into the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Middle close to Charleston and the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Middle in Columbia after the deaths of 14 inmates over the previous a number of years, Kristen M. Clarke, the assistant legal professional basic who oversees the civil rights division, advised reporters.

The investigation will concentrate on “credible allegations” that plenty of these deaths resulted from use of drive — together with a stun gun and pepper spray on an inmate — medical neglect and assaults by different inmates that may have been prevented by competent supervision. The division has additionally acquired quite a few experiences of unsanitary and structurally unsound amenities, sexual assaults, overcrowding and quick staffing.

“Folks confined in native jails throughout our nation don’t abandon their civil and constitutional rights on the jailhouse door,” Ms. Clarke mentioned. “Incarceration ought to by no means carry with it a danger of demise or critical hurt.”

In an emailed assertion, Sheriff Kristin Graziano of Charleston County, who oversees the Cannon facility, mentioned that criticism of the jail was “politically opportunistic.” Ms. Graziano, a Democrat elected in 2020 on a reform platform, accused officers in state authorities of failing to offer sufficient assets to take care of psychological sickness, which she mentioned had led to “the dumping of the mentally ailing in jails.”

In a information convention, officers in Richland County, which oversees the power in Columbia, acknowledged the necessity to handle circumstances and mentioned that they had already begun making modifications, together with rising staffing on the jail.

The division makes use of pattern or practice investigations to find out whether or not regulation enforcement businesses are violating folks’s constitutional rights. The inquiries, which may take months or years, usually culminate in an settlement between the federal government and native officers to undertake a sequence of reforms. In some cases, the division will file a lawsuit if a deal can’t be reached.

The division’s use of such investigations has elevated underneath Legal professional Normal Merrick B. Garland, who opened inquiries in Louisville, Ky.; Minneapolis; New York; Oklahoma Metropolis; Mount Vernon, N.Y.; Phoenix, Worcester, Mass.; and Louisiana. In July, the division initiated an investigation into circumstances on the Fulton County jail in Atlanta, citing comparable issues as these encountered in South Carolina.

Ms. Clarke mentioned the division’s work in South Carolina could be fast-tracked as a result of “life could also be at stake” if issues persist.

Officers painted a very bleak image of the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Middle, about eight miles from the State Capitol in Columbia.

They pointed to 1 fatality specifically that represented the dysfunction on the jail. In August 2022, D’Angelo Brown, 28, died from extreme dehydration after jail officers failed to offer him with satisfactory medicine and remedy for his schizophrenia and bipolar dysfunction, in response to a lawsuit filed by his household.

Mr. Brown suffered a psychotic break, refusing meals and liquids, and died every week after being rushed to a close-by hospital for emergency remedy.

“The county coroner has attributed Mr. Brown’s demise to gross medical neglect and dominated his demise a murder,” Ms. Clarke mentioned.

Since February 2022, there have been six deaths on the detention middle, together with that of Mr. Brown and one other man who was killed by different prisoners. There have additionally been two escapes and 16 confirmed experiences of stabbings or different acts of violence and a number of sexual assaults, in response to the division’s preliminary evaluation.

Ms. Clarke mentioned she had additionally acquired experiences that, in some cases, “the our bodies of the deceased weren’t discovered for vital intervals of time.”

The federal government additionally cited the poor bodily state of the Glenn advanced, which homes greater than 900 prisoners. State inspectors and a neighborhood hearth marshal have reported discovering mould and vermin, she mentioned.

A significant catalyst for the investigation on the Cannon Detention Middle in Charleston County, officers mentioned, was the demise of Jamal Sutherland, 31, who died after being forcibly extracted from his cell in January 2021.

Mr. Sutherland, who had a historical past of psychological well being issues, was taken to the jail after an incident at a behavioral well being middle the place he was being handled. Two sheriff’s deputies pepper-sprayed Mr. Sutherland and used a stun gun to subdue him.

They had been later fired, however the Justice Division decided that there was inadequate proof to convey civil rights costs in opposition to them.