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South Carolina DOC Investigates Jail After 30 Detainee Injuries, Two Escapes and Five Guard Arrests

According to a report by the Charleston Post & Courier on July 31, 2023, the South Carolina Department of Corrections (DOC) had dispatched a team to inspect the Richland County jail, after a series of stabbings, escapes and contraband smuggling by guards.

The Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center has been under scrutiny by state authorities for several months, following a routine inspection in October 2022 that uncovered more than a dozen violations of minimum jail standards. In January 2023, DOC addressed a letter to County Council Chairman Overture Walker, urging the county to devise a remediation plan. The letter also cautioned that the state might step in and close the jail if problems persisted.

In response, county officials presented a comprehensive plan to DOC in April 2023, which included replacing jail locks and hiring a new director, along with extensive remodeling Despite these efforts, problems continued to plague the jail. From January 1 to July 17, 2023, at least 30 detainees suffered injuries classified by the Sheriff’s department as aggravated assaults – many involving contraband weapons.

There have also been escape attempts. On July 17, 2023, an unnamed detainee stacked chairs and climbed through a hole in the ceiling; his escape was thwarted when he was captured elsewhere in the building. Less than a week earlier, on July 11, 2023, detainee Charles Kenneth Meador, 38, escaped and remained on the run five hours before recapture. On May 9, 2023, detainee Latoya Rivers, 31, turned herself in, one day after walking away from a hospital where she’d been taken from the jail for evaluation.

Errant guards have made news, too. On June 29, 2023, Brient Sapp, 25, was arrested and charged with assaulting an unnamed 36-year-old detainee, allegedly in retaliation for spitting on the guard. Another guard, Martavius Smith, 25, was arrested on April 7, 2023, and charged with assaulting another unnamed detainee two days earlier in the intake area, “where Smith struck the detainee in the face with a closed fist,” the Sheriff’s department said. That followed arrests for bribery and contraband smuggling of three other guards: Lynntesha Barr, 30, on February 3, 2023; Nakia Smith, 24, on February 1, 2023; and Casey Weirich, 30, on January 25, 2023.

Reacting to this wave of lawlessness, DOC mobilized a team of 15 experts to assess the jail’s security, maintenance, staffing, policy and leadership. The team’s findings are slated for report later in 2023, according to DOC spokesperson Chrysti Shain. Incredibly, the two-day inspection was the first ever undertaken by the state agency, even though it is responsible for overseeing jails statewide.

The jail has continued to report problems since the state investigation was launched. An unidentified 31-year-old detainee was reportedly stabbed by three fellow detainees on September 5, 2023. Two other detainees reported they were sexually assaulted, one by a cellmate on August 26, 2023, and the other allegedly gang-raped by two fellow detainees on September 1, 2023.

One 21-year-old detainee at the jail said that starting August 26, 2023, he was sexually assaulted at least two different times by four different attackers, including a guard. In February 2023, an employee of the law firm representing the 21-year-old man sent a letter to the U.S. Department of Justice requesting a federal investigation into the detention center. That brings the total number of detainee assaults to 33 in just over nine months. Three of the incidents remain under investigation.

County Administrator Leonardo Brown downplayed the investigation, saying DOC’s visit should be considered “an offer for technical assistance” rather than a formal inspection, pointing to its collaborative scheduling for proof. But state officials said their concerns were amplified by the significant number of problems at the jail, especially the rise in aggravated assaults: Sheriff’s department data indicated there were only 26 during the same period in 2022, and just five in 2021. Furthermore, three detainees have died in 2023, with one January death investigated as a murder. No cause has yet been released for the other two deaths.

DOC sent a letter on August 28, 2023, outlining the problems investigators uncovered and giving the county a month to respond. Meanwhile Brown said he is primarily focused on implementing long-term fixes outlined in the plan that the County presented to DOC back in April 2023. The jail kitchen has already been remodeled, and cell renovation – including new locks – is currently in progress. However, these improvements are expected to take up to a year to complete.

Meanwhile Brown promoted interim jail Director Crayman Harvey to take the job permanently in April 2023. Previous Director Tyrell Cato was fired in September 2022 for failing to disclose sexual misconduct allegations from his previous job. Cato is suing the county for wrongful dismissal, arguing that he informed an assistant administrator about the allegations. See: Cato v. Richland Cty., S. Car. Comm. Pleas (Richland Cty.), Case No. 2023CP4001369.   

Additional sources: Charleston Post & Courier, WYFF

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Related legal case

Cato v. Richland Cty.,