Organizations ask McMaster to address mental health in jails throughout state

Local and state organizations hosted a press conference Tuesday on the steps of the State House to address what they call a mental health crisis at jails.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 4:01 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 6:54 PM EDT
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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCSC) - Local and state organizations hosted a press conference Tuesday on the steps of the State House to address what they call a mental health crisis at jails throughout South Carolina.

The press conference hosted by the Racial Justice Network, alongside South Carolina NAACP, Urban League, Charleston County Sheriff’s Department and Black Caucus, focused on mental health problems in the judicial system, ending with the organization requesting action from Gov. Henry McMaster.

CEO of the Racial Justice Network James Johnson says there are 15 people in South Carolina jails today with no charges and are suffering from mental health illnesses.

“We have people that are dying,” Johnson said. “The law enforcement in South Carolina is not supposed to handle mental illness patients, but they are housed in a jail because they have nowhere to put them.”

Three individuals, Hosanna Dinkins, Lavell Lane and D’Angelo Brown died in South Carolina jails this year while suffering from mental health-related problems, which is part of the reason these groups are requesting change.

28-year-old Brown died at the Al Cannon Detention Center while suffering from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Court documents allege Brown never received the treatments he needed.

Lane died while in-custody at the Spartanburg County Detention Center after an adverse reaction to antipsychotic medication.

“They wanted me to bring awareness that it’s been almost a year, and they have yet to see any type of footage of Lavell Lane’s death of what really happened to him,” Shawnta Brown, member of the Racial Justice Network, said on behalf of Lane’s family. “He needed help; he did not deserve to be in custody.”

Inside of the Sumter Regional Detention Center on Aug. 23, Hosanna was found unresponsive while waiting to be transported to a mental health facility and was not facing any criminal charges.

Hosanna’s father, Hosea Dinkins, said during Tuesday’s press conference that she was not supposed to be in a place like that.

“It’s time for people to wake up and get a new start in this world,” Hosea said. “It’s time people, it’s time.”

In response to recent problems in the state, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office is creating a restoration unit inside the Al Cannon Detention Center to help inmates who have been deemed incompetent.

Charleston County Sheriff’s Office Director of Mental Health William Malcolm says the unit will allow inmates to get treatment before going back into the general population.

“I think this is something that we could do in other jails throughout South Carolina to alleviate some of the problems that are happening in the jails,” he said. “I think that we have long not paid attention to those people that are that have mental health issues in the criminal justice system.”

The until will be staffed by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health and serve around 20 patients at a time. It is expected to open within the next three to four months.

“I think the sheriff, along with myself and a whole host of people in Charleston, are looking to change the atmosphere and provide better, and better treatment for these people,” Malcolm said.

The Racial Justice Network is asking Gov. McMaster to bring Medicaid expansion to the state, saying it would solve many people’s problems.

“We need him to actually expand that mental illness funding, because it is serious in the state of South Carolina,” Johnson said. “You cannot walk down the street in any city in South Carolina, and not see somebody that has a mental illness problem.”

If you know anyone suffering from a mental health illness inside of a South Carolina jail, the Racial Justice Network is asking you to call 1-800-694-1981.