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No fire plans, keys left out and no clean laundry. Troubled South Carolina jail fails inspection

Dec 20, 2023, 7:47 AM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina jail that is being investigated by federal officials has failed a state inspection after it was found to have unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections’ review of the Richland County jail found, among other things, a lack of written plans to evacuate inmates during a fire, keys for cells and exits that had been left in an unlocked desk drawer in a juvenile wing, prisoners who were tasked with conducting head counts and prisoners only being given clean clothes once a week.

Several of the problems involved units holding women. One had urinals, and a male inmate was able to drop into the female unit through the ceiling. The women weren’t regularly given toothbrushes, soap, tampons and pads.

A cell used for women who are a danger to themselves doesn’t have cameras or other ways to constantly monitor the prisoner. Women awaiting trial and others who have already been convicted of crimes were being housed together against the rules, state prison officials found in their report last month.

The jail likely doesn’t have enough guards to properly monitor inmates or has a list of what space is available to house prisoners. Furthermore, ceiling and shower tiles are missing and some bathrooms didn’t have lights, inspectors found.

Under South Carolina law, the jail has 90 days after it gets the report to detail how it will fix the problems and work on solutions. The state can close the jail, but finding places for its more than 700 inmates would be difficult.

Several previous inspections have also found problems at the Richland County jail and the November report acknowledged some efforts to fix them.

The county issued a statement saying the inspection report was released to the media before the county received it.

“Once the report is received, Richland County Administration and County Council will dedicate ample time to its thorough review. The County remains committed to collaborating with SCDC to enhance conditions at the detention center, prioritizing the safety and security of detainees and staff,” the county wrote.

In November, the U.S. Justice Department announced it was investigating the jail for a long list of issues including an inmate who was beaten to death by five attackers locked in cells with unsecured doors.

There have been at least six deaths at the jail since February 2022, federal officials found. The jail has also recently seen two escapes, one riot, 16 confirmed reports of stabbings or assaults and two alleged rapes, they said.

The U.S. Justice Department also is investigating the Charleston County jail, where a mentally ill Black man was stunned 10 times by two jail employees who kneeled on his back until he stopped breathing.

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No fire plans, keys left out and no clean laundry. Troubled South Carolina jail fails inspection