New form evaluates inmates’ mental health after intake at Charleston Co. jail
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCSC) - A Freedom of Information Act request revealed new details about some of the conversations and changes that have happened within the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office since Jamal Sutherland’s death.
Sutherland, 31, died on Jan. 5, just hours after he was booked into the Al Cannon Detention Center. The Charleston County Coroner’s Office has ruled his death a “homicide” after deputies repeatedly used a Taser on him, but a death investigation is ongoing.
There have been many questions about Sutherland’s mental state when he was booked into the jail and if he was flagged for any mental health issues.
Charleston County jail staff will now fill out a form that asks questions like, “Are you taking any mental health medications?” or “Have you ever been in a mental health facility, involuntarily or voluntarily, or had inpatient psychiatric care?”
The form’s final three questions are meant for the jail staff to state their observations of the inmate. They ask if the inmate’s behavior warrants immediate psychiatric treatment of if the resident refused or was unable to answer the form’s questions.
Questions arise about whether deputies followed jail policy when Sutherland was removed from cell
Meanwhile, a set of emails revealed that exactly two weeks after Sutherland’s death, there were some questions about why Sutherland was forcefully removed from his cell for a bond hearing.
Five of the six deputies who were questioned said the jail’s former chief, Willis Beatty, who was let go from his role at the detention center on the day Sutherland died, had given a directive previously that inmates could not refuse a bond hearing, and if they were refusing, they would have to do so in front of a judge.
A “Capt. Greathouse” was quoted as saying they were contacted by a lieutenant regarding Sutherland refusing a bond hearing.
SPECIAL SECTION: Jamal Sutherland Death investigation
“However, Capt. Greathouse did not want to go against another captain so she advised Lt. Duval to use the ERC [emergency restraint chair] to transport inmate Sutherland to bond hearing. Lt. Duval advised a use of force plan would be implemented,” one email states.
The email also said “Maj. Harris stated, in 2019 and 2020, Beatty did say an Inmate could not refuse a bond hearing.”
Five out of the six Charleston County deputies said they remembered an order given by Beatty regarding inmates not being able to refuse a bond hearing.
Also included in the emailed was an italicized paragraph from the agency’s policy procedure for a video bond hearing. It stated that a judge must order an inmate be brought in front of him or her if they refused to appear for their bond hearing. It’s still unclear at this time if the policy’s steps were followed by detention deputies.
“The judge will be notified of all inmate refusals to sign the Consent to Video Conferencing Form. Inmates refusing to sign the Consent to Video Conferencing Form will not continue in the videoconferencing process. Inmates will not be coerced into signing the Consent to Video Conferencing Form; signature is strictly voluntary. The Court may request the inmate to make the refusal via video; the Court will reschedule the inmate’s court appearance. The Bond Hearing Detention Deputy will follow-up with the inmate regarding participation in Bond Hearing at each Bond Hearing Court Session. If the inmate refuses again, the Judge shall be notified of the refusal. If the Judge orders that the inmate be brought in front of him/her, the inmate shall be escorted to Bond Court by the Special Operations Group,” CCSO’s policy procedure stated.
Attorney Mark Peper, who represents the Sutherland family, commented late Wednesday on the policy.
“Policies are not mere suggestions. They are written for a specific purpose and are to be strictly adhered to,” he said. “Had this policy been followed on Jan. 5, we know Jamal would still be alive today.”
Capt. Roger Antonio said Wednesday the sheriff’s office’s internal investigation could be released soon. He said it had concluded, but it was still undergoing final approval.
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