Families of inmates killed at South Carolina prison sue state

CHARLESTON, SC (WCSC) - The families of two of the four inmates, who were allegedly strangled by two convicted Lowcountry murderers, are suing the state, saying the prison provided woefully inadequate mental health care.

The deaths happened at the Kirkland Correctional Institute in Columbia in April of 2017.

Inmates Denver Simmons and Jacob Philip are charged with murder in the deaths of John King, Jason Kelley, Jimmy Ham, and William Scruggs.

Philip was incarcerated for the killing of 26-year-old Ashley Kaney and her 8-year-old daughter Riley Burdrick in their Sangaree home in 2013. 

The lawsuits filed by Ham and Kelley's relatives say counselors often announced a prisoner's mental health diagnosis in front of other inmates to embarrass them.
The lawsuit also says counselors used checklists not approved by a psychiatrist instead of having conversations with prisoners.

Simmons told the Associated Press they lured the inmates into their cells individually and killed them so they could get the death penalty.
The Corrections Department says it doesn't comment on pending lawsuits.

Kirkland Correctional Institution is a level 3 prison built in 1975 that houses the maximum security unit that serves the entire state of South Carolina.

The inmates housed in the unit are considered the most dangerous and violent offenders sentenced in the state.

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