A South Carolina inmate suffering from mental illness after he was stabbed during the 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institute was later raped in the shower at Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital, a recently filed lawsuit said.
The Marion County man — who will be referred to as John Doe as he is an alleged sexual assault victim —filed a lawsuit against South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) in Richland County Court of Common Pleas on Monday.
In July 2019, Doe was physically assaulted and anally raped by another inmate in the shower at Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital, which is a part of the Kirkland Correctional Institute in Columbia, South Carolina, the lawsuit said. Doe said prison officials prevented him from getting a rape kit and their lack of concern to properly staff and operate the psychiatric hospital fostered an environment that allowed the sexual assault to occur.
Doe was sentenced to 25 years in prison after pleading guilty to a voluntary manslaughter charge. He has no disciplinary record.
Several incidents led up to the July 26 sexual assault, beginning in April 2018 when Doe was stabbed multiple times during the riots at Lee Correctional Institute, according to the lawsuit. Seven inmates died during the riots that lasted nearly 6 hours.
Doe was eventually transferred to another facility, the lawsuit said.
In January, 2019, Doe “begged” SCDC staff members to not send him back to Lee, saying that he “feared for his life” due to the April 2018, according to the lawsuit.
Despite this, Doe was transferred to Lee in March 2019.
When he requested protective custody because he feared for his life, they placed him in the Restricting Housing Unit (RHU), a 24-hour lockdown often referred to as “the hole,” the lawsuit said.
His time in lockdown was “short-lived” — and SCDC officials soon placed Doe in the exact same unit where he was during the 2018 riot, the lawsuit said. Though Lee was placed on lockdown at this time, multiple gang members continued to approach Doe’s cell and threaten his life.
Once again, Doe formally requested that he would be placed in protected custody and SCDC officials placed him in RHU on April 9, 2019, according to the lawsuit.
During those several months in lockdown, Doe’s mental health “began deteriorating, resulting in hallucinations, nightmares, etc. and the need for psychotropic medication,” the lawsuit said.
Due to his worsening mental health condition, Doe was transferred to Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital, where he was to remain in protected custody, according to the lawsuit.
The sexual assault
On July 26, 2019, a correctional officer removed Doe from his cell for shower time. When Doe was out of his cell, an inmate who was not secured started threatening Doe and yelling at him, the lawsuit said.
The correctional officer told Doe to go upstairs and shower. Doe then assumed that the officer was going to secure the other inmate, the lawsuit said.
But a few minutes later, “that same inmate physically assaulted and anally raped (Doe) in the shower,” according to the lawsuit.
SCDC officers eventually “interrupted” the assault and Doe was transported to the medical unit for evaluation. Doe told medical staff and his mental health counselor that he was sexually assaulted.
He reported the assault to the Prison Rape Elimination Act (PREA) hotline, who then asked medical staff to evaluate him, according to the lawsuit.
Doe believes that after medical staff contacted the hospital to schedule a rape exam, his appointment was cancelled by the warden, the lawsuit said.
SCDC “consciously failed to follow generally accepted, proper protocol and consciously failed to perform a proper investigation of the incident in question,” the lawsuit stated. Because of this, the accused inmate and corrections officer were “unpunished and unprosecuted.”
The lawsuit points to many problems in the SCDC system that have been previously reported on — overcrowded prisons staffed by too few qualified staff members.
Doe said SCDC failed to follow American Correctional Association guidelines.
“Specifically, correctional institutions such as those owned and operated by SCDC are required to maintain an adequate number of qualified staff members to interact directly with inmate/patients who have severe mental health problems and to advise other correctional staff about their contacts with such individuals,” the lawsuit said.
Before the July 2019 rape, Kirkland “had a long history of overcrowding and failing to provide adequate security and supervision over the inmates located at the facility – to include those inmates located within the Gilliam Psychiatric Hospital,” the lawsuit said.
These issues were “well-known” to SCDC administrative staff at all levels, the lawsuit said.
Specifically, SCDC didn’t provide enough security guards at the mental health hospital and the staff “should have known that their failure to provide adequate security measures would result in unsafe conditions for the inmate population,” according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit said that the inmates at Gilliam were patients “suffering from serious and/or persistent mental illness and require intensive mental health treatment, monitoring and care.”
Doe also said inmates at Gilliam were not separated according to policy.
“Specifically, violent offenders were not to be housed with nonviolent offenders and PREA victims were not to be housed with known PREA violators,” the lawsuit said.
In recent years, the SCDC, has been rocked by surging violence in its facilities, and with that, lawsuits too.
According to a (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier investigative analysis looking at 2013-2018 data, South Carolina prisons settle more than 100 claims a year with inmates. However, less than inmates are unlikely to receive any money from the claims. Each year, between 7 and 30 percent of the inmates who filed complaints were awarded money.
In January, SCDC officials asked South Carolina lawmakers for $100 million to “upgrade security and raise employees salaries,” the Associated Press reported.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR …
Mandy Matney is the news director at FITSNews. She’s an award-winning journalist from Kansas who has worked for newspapers in Missouri, Illinois, and South Carolina before making the switch to FITS. She currently lives on Hilton Head Island where she enjoys beach life. Want to contact Mandy? Send your story ideas, comments, suggestions and tips to [email protected].
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