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Crime & Courts

South Carolina Detention Center In Crisis

Feds, state must intervene …

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Earlier this month, we reported on the latest allegations involving the much-maligned Alvin S. Glenn detention center in Richland County, South Carolina.

What fresh hell has befallen this chronically mismanaged facility? Last time checked, it was reports of repeated rapes perpetrated by inmates and guards.

Three inmates have been killed at “the Glenn” so far this year – and countless others have been assaulted. Just last week, in fact, a pair of stabbings took place inside the facility – both of which are under investigation by the Richland County sheriff’s department.

One of those incidents involved a detainee getting stabbed a dozen times

Most county detention centers are run by the local sheriff’s department. Not “the Glenn.” It is run independently by Richland County’s chronically results-challenged government.

In February of this year, attorneys Bakari Sellers and Alexandra “Ally” Benevento called on the civil rights division of the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate “subhuman conditions” at the facility – conditions which were allegedly tied to “an ingrained culture of violating civil rights of detainees.”

Their letter (.pdf) not only accused jail staff of “facilitating, participating in, or failing to intervene in (violent) attacks,” but also of having “routinely not provided (inmates) with the most basic necessities required under state and federal law, including running water, adequate medical care, bathing opportunities, or clean clothing and bedding.”

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In April of this year, the county vowed to implement a “remedial action plan” in response to requests that the facility be taken over by the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) after failing to meet dozens of “minimum standards for local detention centers.”

As much as $23 million in one-time taxpayer money was pledged in connection with these “remedial actions” – including $2 million for new locks.

One of the letters sent by county administrator Leonardo Brown in response to SCDC officials offered a litany of excuses for delayed implementation of the “action plan.”

“As you are aware, some of the identified issues such as plumbing, cell doors, and certain housing unit conditions, require structural changes to parts of the facility,” Brown wrote to SCDC in April. “While Richland County has made available significant funding to properly fix these issues, in many instances, detention grade products are not readily available and require long lead times for the ordered products to be fabricated for facility use and installation. Additionally, there is not an abundance of contractors available and/or willing to perform work in the detention facility environment.”

In addition to citing these delays, another April 2023 letter from Brown appeared eager to shift blame for the county’s chronic failure onto broader systemic issues.

“While Richland County certainly has room for improvement, I think it is equally important to highlight that the areas of concern (i.e. staffing, training and compliance, detainee misbehavior, contraband, service provider/ contractor availability/ skill) are not unique to Richland County,” he wrote. “Detention and correctional facilities across South Carolina and the nation have been and are still struggling with these same challenges. We should endeavor to work collaboratively, as a community of detention and correctional facilities, to create and share viable solutions to positively impact the systemic deficiencies surrounding detention and correctional facilities, the justice system and care for the mentally ill.”

Really?

Last month, Richland County made interim jail director Crayman Harvey the facility’s new permanent director – despite a clear uptick in violence and deteriorating conditions behind the walls during his eleven months at the helm.

Take a look …

(Click to View)

(Via: Provided)

On July 26-27 of this year, SCDC officials conducted a detailed security audit of “the Glenn.” The confidential findings of that audit were provided to Richland County officials on August 28, 2023.

“It should come as no surprise that some conditions at your detention center are in need of immediate attention and improvement,” SCDC division director Blake E. Taylor Jr. wrote in a letter (.pdf) to Brown accompanying the results.

Taylor gave Brown, Harvey and other county leaders until September 28, 2023 – this Thursday – to provide SCDC with their response to the audit’s findings. Specifically, he drew their attention to “matters which we believe require the most immediate attention and a few more of them which ought to be correctable prior to that deadline.”

SCDC communications director Chrysti Shain said her agency is still awaiting the county’s response.

“We’re waiting on their plan to improve security and operations at the detention center,” Shain said.

Shain declined to speculate on what actions the agency might take in the event Richland County officials continued to fall short on these mission critical objectives.

In the weeks following SCDC’s security audit, sources familiar with conditions at the facility spoke of a “surge” in new detainees – an influx of more than 100 new detainees within a month’s time which is compounding existing issues. “The Glenn” is built to house 1,116 detainees, however five of its eighteen housing units are currently closed due to staffing shortages (there are more than 125 vacant positions at the jail, at last count). Two units are also currently undergoing renovations.

This news outlet has submitted a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request of Richland County in the hopes of receiving historical information on the center’s inmate population. We will keep our readers apprised as to any information we are able to obtain that is responsive to our request.

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RELATED | DETENTION CENTERS UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

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In the meantime, it has become abundantly clear Richland County is utterly incapable of fixing this facility – which becomes less safe by the day. Unfortunately, it seems equally clear no one wants to take ownership of the mess the county has created.

Seriously … why would SCDC or the feds intervene?

The Alvin S. Glenn detention center has become the equivalent of a radioactive “exclusion zone” – especially when it comes to someone taking accountability for the hellhole it has become.

Make no mistake: My news outlet has been – and will continue to be – aggressive in its support of high bonds, lengthy sentences and harsh punishments for violent offenders.

But as I noted earlier this year, “correctional facilities should never be permitted to deteriorate to the point many of them have.”

“South Carolina can – and must – do better at every step of its criminal justice system, including (after) violent criminals have been taken off of the streets and placed in the care of our correctional institutions,” I added.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR …

Will Folks (Brett Flashnick)

Will Folks is the founding editor of the news outlet you are currently reading. Prior to founding FITSNews, he served as press secretary to the governor of South Carolina. He lives in the Midlands region of the state with his wife and seven children.

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