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DOJ Investigates S.C. Jails Where Inmates Died Violently

Two South Carolina jails where inmates have died violently at the hands of employees or others held behind bars are under federal investigation. Officials said the civil rights probes will examine the conditions at detention centers in the urban hubs of Charleston and Columbia. They cited the deaths of a mentally ill Black man stunned 10 times by two employees who kneeled on his back until he stopped breathing and a man beaten to death by five attackers in cells with unsecured doors. “People confined in local jails across our country do not abandon their civil and constitutional rights at the jailhouse door,” said Assistant Attorney General Kristen Clarke, reports the Associated Press. “Incarceration should never carry with it the risk of death or serious harm.”

Eight people jailed at the Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center have died since 2022. Discrimination against incarcerated people with psychiatric disabilities, access to medical care, solitary confinement practices and staff use of force are the focus of the investigation into the Charleston County jail. That’s where Jamal Sutherland had been booked after a fight at the center that was treating his schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Two deputies repeatedly stunned the 31-year-old man one day later when he refused to leave for a court appearance. Video later showed Sutherland saying “I can’t breathe” while forced to the ground in handcuffs. A 28-year-old Black man with schizophrenia repeatedly sat in his own feces while left in isolation before his death last year that the local coroner attributed to “gross medical neglect,” The Charleston Post & Courier reported. Clarke reported six known deaths since February 2022 at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia. Investigators will look into whether people there are adequately protected from violence and subjected to dangerous living conditions. The American Civil Liberties Union's Allen Chaney said the probe should make officials reconsider use of jails as a “catchall solution” for addiction, poverty and homelessness.


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