By MEG KINNARD
COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - An advocacy group that has sued South Carolina's prisons agency over the care of mentally ill inmates is getting its day in court.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Baxley on Monday is expected to begin hearing arguments in the case. The lawsuit accuses the Corrections Department of violating the constitutional rights of inmates suffering from mental illness.
Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities sued the agency in 2005, saying mentally ill inmates were being subjected to cruel and unusual punishment by being severely punished for disciplinary infractions. The group also said the inmates were not being given enough access to psychiatric care.
The advocacy group says as many as 4,400 of the state's inmates are mentally ill.
Prison officials deny claims that mentally ill inmates' rights are being violated but acknowledge their agency needs more money.
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