A pair of jails in South Carolina with reputations for violence including deaths and sexual abuse of inmates are officially under federal investigation for suspected civil rights violations, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced on Thursday.
The two facilities were singled out by the DOJ following “credible allegations” of inmates dying “from use of force, gross medical neglect or suicide” at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston and “sexual assaults, homicides and prevalent violence resulting in serious injuries” at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center (ASGDC) in Columbia.
The investigation was announced two days after an inmate was stabbed at the ASGDC.
From the DOJ:
The investigation of the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center will examine medical and mental health care, use of isolation and use of force. It will also examine whether the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office discriminates against persons with disabilities inside the Detention Center. At the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the department will examine living conditions and whether the detention center fails to protect incarcerated individuals from violence.
“People confined in local jails across our country do not abandon their civil and constitutional rights at the jailhouse door,” Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke for the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division said in a statement. “We are launching these investigations to determine whether the jail conditions in two of South Carolina’s largest counties comply with basic constitutional standards. We are committed to ensuring that people held inside jails and prisons are not subjected to excessive force, violent conditions, inadequate medical and mental health care, and other dangerous physical conditions while in the custody of their local government.”
The family of an inmate who died last year in the custody of the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center expressed cautious optimism following the DOJ announcing its investigation.
Decrying how local officials “have turned a blind eye to the violence and neglect infesting Alvin S Glenn,” the family of Lason Butler – whose February 2022 death was ruled a homicide by the Richland County coroner due to the “lack of action” by the jail’s staff – issued a statement through their lawyers reacting to the news.
Calling the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center a “death trap,” the statement emailed to NewsOne went on to call the state’s response “inexcusable” and “downright criminal” before offering the DOJ their help to ensure “a swift and comprehensive inquiry.”
Butler’s death resulted in renewed calls by attorneys Bakari Sellers and Alexandra Benevento with the Strom Law Firm for the DOJ Civil Rights Division to investigate the jail due to the subhuman conditions, neglect and violent attacks.
“The issues with ASGDC’s understaffing and staff conduct are further demonstrated in the cases of an additional five individuals represented by Strom Law Firm,” Sellers wrote February in a letter to DOJ. “Each of these clients was attacked in the jail, sometimes with prison-made or contraband weapons, while inmates have been let out to roam without adequate supervision in their dorms. They have suffered gruesome injuries, including stab wounds, fractures, and significant emotional trauma, requiring days of hospitalization or treatment. A common theme among these cases is the inappropriate conduct of the detention center staff.”
Benevento previously referred to ASGDC “hell on earth” and described it as “a war zone.”
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