Palmetto Prison System Blasted

Is there yet another scandal in the works for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s embattled cabinet? Quite possibly … although it seems as though this debacle stretches back much further than just the last three years. South Carolina’s Department of Corrections – currently run by Haley’s former chief of staff Bryan…

Is there yet another scandal in the works for S.C. Gov. Nikki Haley’s embattled cabinet?

Quite possibly … although it seems as though this debacle stretches back much further than just the last three years.

South Carolina’s Department of Corrections – currently run by Haley’s former chief of staff Bryan Stirling – is the subject of an intensely unflattering national exposé by reporter Andrew Cohen of The Atlantic.

Entitled “When Good People Do Nothing: The Appalling Story of South Carolina’s Prisons,” Cohen’s article explores the alleged mistreatment of mentally ill inmates in South Carolina the context of a recent ruling by Columbia, S.C. circuit court judge Michael Baxley.

“A state judge in Columbia ruled that South Carolina prison officials were culpable of pervasive, systemic, unremitting violations of the state’s constitution by abusing and neglecting mentally ill inmates,” Cohen writes.

“South Carolina today mistreats these ill people without any evident traces of remorse,” he continues.  “Even though there are few disputed material issues of law or fact in the case, even though the judge implored the state to take responsibility for its conduct, South Carolina declared before the sun had set Wednesday that it would appeal the ruling—and thus likely doom the inmates to years more abuse and neglect. That’s not just ‘deliberate indifference,’ the applicable legal standard in these prison abuse cases. That is immoral.”

Wow …

No one from Haley’s administration was available for comment on Cohen’s piece.

The court case – which has been dragging on for eight years – is a graphic indictment of how South Carolina addresses core government functions (i.e. law enforcement, courts and prisons).

“The evidence in this case has proved that inmates have died in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care, and hundreds more remain substantially at risk for serious physical injury, mental decompensation, and profound, permanent mental illness,” Judge Baxley writes.

One mentally ill inmate was left in solitary confinement for 2,491 consecutive days (almost seven years) while another was brutally beaten before being “left to rot in his own feces and vomit.”  He later died of a heart attack.  Force was used against one mentally ill inmate more than eighty times – while his fellow prisoners were “routinely caged for days in their own feces and urine.”

As damning as the court’s conclusions, Cohen’s piece zeroes in on the real story – the ignorant/ lackadaisical/ corrupt response of state officials.

For example there is S.C. Sen. Mike Fair (RINO-Greenville), who stated he was not aware “we had a problem with any particular aspect of mistreating or not treating inmates” (despite having chaired a committee in 2003 which exposed numerous problems at the agency).

Then there was “Republican” Majority Leader Bruce Bannister, who told The Greenville News that Baxter’s ruling “came out of left field.”

“I didn’t even know it was an issue that anybody was addressing,” he said.

Shortly after taking office Haley tapped former S.C. Department of Juvenile Justice (SCDJJ) director Bill Byars to lead the Department of Corrections – but he wound up spending more time in the hospital than he did on the job.

Her second choice?  Stirling – a political appointee.

“In previous administrations, South Carolina had leaders at the Department of Corrections like Ellis MacDougall and William Leeke, who made the position one of substance and expertise and took us out of the dark ages,” S.C. Democratic Party chairman Jamie Harrison said of Haley’s selection of Stirling. “These leaders knew how to run prisons and deal with prisoners, but Mr. Stirling’s primary experience is in dealing with politics and politicians.”

Not good … and the state’s appeal indicates things aren’t likely to get any better any time soon.

Here’s the gut punch from Cohen’s piece …

Over and over again, Judge Baxley chronicled, state lawyers sought to minimize the extent of the problem. Specific incidents of inmate abuse or neglect were called “anecdotal” or “outliers” by prison officials. Likewise, the state even failed or refused to find competent experts. The judge noted “the wide disparity  between Plaintiffs’ and Defendants’ experts in case preparation and particular knowledge of the SCDC system.” Ponder that for a moment: South Carolina’s prison “experts” in this case didn’t know as much about South Carolina’s prisons as did the experts for the inmates. And yet South Carolina pledges an appeal.

“It’s a great day in South Carolina …”

As hard core libertarians, there are very few things the authors of this website believe government should do – but those things (cops, courts, roads, prisons) must be done cost-effectively, transparently and with accountability.

And they must be done humanely …

What’s happening in South Carolina’s prison system is a true travesty …

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southmauldin January 12, 2014 at 5:50 pm

I wish Haley would quit pissing away my tax money hiring her lawyer friends to appeal decisions that are well reasoned and supported by facts. Maybe she should give Alan Wilson a chance to do his job, since he obviously is not interested in reigning in bastards like Harrell.
And Mike Fair is the prime example of a career politician who basks in his own ego and self-importance.

Deo Vindice SC January 12, 2014 at 6:28 pm

FAT chance, She should be there also. Wilson? Haley clone, as Keel, Please! get a brain for your’e self.

notLindaBurke January 13, 2014 at 9:36 am

Mike Fair irony: He has touted the efficacy of his volunteer Christian inmate rehabilitation programs but seems not to understand that a basic WWJD answer is “He would care for the least of these.”

Deo Vindice SC January 12, 2014 at 6:46 pm

Fuck them democrats like no tomorrow. Yea!!!

IVEBEENHACKED January 12, 2014 at 6:57 pm

Until Haley is out of office every state agency under her control is going to be operated terribly. She has been a total failure on jobs the economy of this state and most of all failed every citizens with the data breach. However we can change that this year if common sense prevails.

kjdsaspdfi ndpands January 12, 2014 at 10:44 pm

Alan Wilson would not prosecute his own family’s murderer if it had political implications. Look at HM, he did the bidding of the corrupt FOR DECADES, and the best he can do is a paltry seat on a state board. Democrats go down, the speaker gets a pass. Alan Wilson for chair of the Richland-Lexington Airport Commission Board, 2018. Corrupt tool.

Edgar January 13, 2014 at 8:22 am

Alan Wilson showed guts and “leadership” recently when he supported Scarlett Wilson (no relation) of her “outing” the hypocrisy, dishonesty and political motivations of Don Beatty and indirectly,Beatty’s mentor and spiritual and political leader, Jean Toal. He did the right thing.

No way January 13, 2014 at 8:31 am

Everyone will see how transparently political AG Wilson’s actions are once they see that he will not move to recuse Beatty from a single case. It’s because he knows there is no legal basis to do so. His public response was calculated to appease the politically powerful solicitors, that’s all. If anything, is shows an abject lack of integrity.

nitrat January 12, 2014 at 11:18 pm

Yet another failure of “reorganization” and the SC cabinet system.
Yet another failure of the 11 year Sanford/Haley administration and their sorry agency head/political hack picks.

9" January 13, 2014 at 1:52 am

Although,SC is especially bad,the treatment of the mentally ill in US prisons is a national disgrace.These people have no voice,and are treated as less than human. Remember,Abu Ghraib? That’s nothing compared to what goes on in the USA,everyday:

Lake January 13, 2014 at 7:34 am

“As hard core libertarians, there are very few things the authors of this website believe government should do – but those things (cops, courts, roads, prisons) must be done cost-effectively, transparently and with accountability.”

And yet you will ultimately endorse Haley for governor in 2014…unbelievable. Seriously, if Haley is defeated in 2014 it will be a shot across the bow for ALL Republicans, then we might see some real change.

Carl Toersbijns January 13, 2014 at 10:23 am

Putting politiicans in charge of corrections develops the wrong attitudes, culture and practices – this is not an area for experimenting ideologies or other games. People get hurt inside these prisons and often people end up dying and staff take the burden of these events not the politician that can walk away from it. Find somebody to run your prisons Governor that has a working knowledge of the penal concept and basic sound principles and practices. It will not only reduce prison costs but it will reduce prison related death, healthcare issues, and compliance with laws. Most of all, it will improve morale and staff will be motivated to work and do their jobs like its suppose to be done.

Lt. RET SC Dept.of Corruption January 13, 2014 at 10:52 am

I worked for SCDC for 26 years…All the accusations about the prison system…The treatment of the mentally challenged….The use of Administrative Segregation is in some case is needed…but the lack of proper actions of the State Classification. ..Social workers…and case worker is appalling. ..The use the system just to rotate the placement of the inmates…for example an inmate who with know physiological issues was being treated at the Gilliam Center at the Kirkland Correctional Institution.He was in a seclusion cell…drawing on the wall with his own feces. You would think proper treatment would be sought and given…but here is what happened…His caseworker had him reclassified and he was transfered to Manning Correctional Institution where after being placed in general population in Ward 1 which is an open unit with 79 inmates…He went off…to make the story short…He assaulted a sergeant and lieutenant. ..who had to remove him from the ward….but the most funny thing of all….The incident was covered up by the institution and the Warden…When one of the assaulted officers went digging about the inmate…and his classification…The records were gone…so in closing I think SCDC should be held responsible….for their mistreatment of their mentally challenged and the security staff who are one the line…..

IVEBEENHACKED January 13, 2014 at 2:01 pm Reply
Atthecoast January 13, 2014 at 3:18 pm

A sad day for us all when we sit by and allow these criminal (yet govt. endorsed) activities occur. While our elected peckerheads, of all parties, go about their self-aggrandized way. Nimrata needs to go and take her boot licking cabinet with her.

Thomas January 13, 2014 at 5:03 pm

The punishment for the criminally convicted American Citizens is TIME. Lost time away from family, lost time from a job, lost time from school, lost time from freedom and opportunity in the United States. Never was prison meant for mistreatment, neglect, abuse at the hands of corrections officials or other inmates.


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