Richland County's Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center has repeatedly violated the same state standards, ranging from chronic understaffing to unattended cells, for at least the last three years, inspection reports by the S.C. Department of Corrections reveal.
Now, with the jail under scrutiny for multiple recent deaths, the Department of Corrections says the county has three months, until April 18, to provide a "strategy for remedial action," according to a letter from the state agency to Richland County Council Chairman Overture Walker.
"In the absence of a satisfactory reply, we would then have to stipulate specific changes with deadlines required in order for this facility to remain open," reads the Jan. 19 letter from Blake Taylor, the director of compliance, standards and inspections with the Department of Corrections.
State statute gives the Department of Corrections the authority to close a detention center. Taylor's letter to Walker notes, "it is most definitely our hope and preference to avoid the necessity of taking such extreme action."
The State has requested interviews with Walker and Richland County Administrator Leonardo Brown regarding conditions at the jail and the state inspection reports. Walker has declined to comment, citing pending litigation against the jail. Brown has not responded to a request shared with him by county spokesperson Susan O'Cain. Brown has not responded to numerous requests for information regarding the jail.
The jail, where four detainees have died in less than 12 months, has not had adequate staffing for at least the last three years. "This facility is continuing, of necessity, to encumber overtime for existing employees; and, even then, staff coverage is inadequate," Department of Corrections inspection reports note. The same language has been present in every inspection for the last three years.
In the most recent inspection, conducted Oct. 24, 2022, 124 positions at the jail were vacant.
For each of the past three years, the staffing problems have led to more housing units being closed.
In 2020, a state audit showed three housing units at the jail were closed because the jail lacked the staffing numbers to supervise those units. In 2021, four units were closed for that reason. And according to the 2022 audit conducted in October, five housing units were closed because of a lack of staff to supervise them.
The audits note that inadequate staffing is the reason for those units being closed.
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The inspections for the last three years also show rooms meant to hold male detainees who are under the influence of substances or who may pose a danger to themselves or others, known as special purpose cells, can't be supervised at all hours of the day - another routine violation of state standards.
Other routine violations include fire code violations, as well as housing too many detainees per cell in some living units.
In the most recent audit of the jail, the Department of Corrections found even more violations, including that cell locks in one area of the jail were malfunctioning and that a detainee with disabilities was held in a cell that didn't meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
The inspection also found in at least two cells, detainees did not have beds. Pest control at the jail was also deemed inadequate in the latest inspection report.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control also has noted problems at the facility.
The jail was fined $6,600 in August by the state Department of Health and Environmental Control for health and safety violations.
That agency issued a consent order in August requiring the jail to address myriad problems with sanitation and food service. In October, the agency sent another letter to the detention center, reiterating the obligation to pay the $6,600 and noting "the necessary repairs have not been made to equipment to ensure equipment is maintained in a state of good repair and condition, as well as physical facilities are not being maintained in good repair."
The jail has since paid the fine. In a follow-up inspection Feb. 1, the jail scored an "A" from DHEC, according to the agency.
The jail is also without a permanent director. Crayman Harvey is serving as interim director, after the previously hired director Tyrell Cato was fired, following reports that he was fired from his previous job at the Kershaw County detention center for sexually harassing an employee. The State also reported that he was accused of sexual harassment years before he was fired from Kershaw County.
The State has attempted to speak with Walker about the Department of Corrections letter that demands a plan for improvements by the county. On Monday, Walker claimed he was not in receipt of the Jan. 19 letter from the Department of Corrections.
"I'm not in receipt of an email from Blake Taylor, nor would he have a reason to email directly considering that the Administrator, and not Council, is statutorily responsible for the detention center. Moreover, I have never received an email from Blake Taylor since I've been on Council so I'm not sure if your assertion of this phantom email was intended as a ruse to lure me into a conversation about the detention center," Walker wrote in an email to The State.
"In any event, I am not (at) liberty to discuss any matter involving the County where litigation is pending, which would include the detention center," Walker's email continued.
He then referred The State to a statement issued by county attorney Patrick Wright via email Friday.
Wright's statement said the county has been working to hire contractors to make repairs at the jail and that county administrator Brown has been in communication with the Department of Corrections "regarding ways to improve" the jail.
Documents obtained by The State from the Department of Corrections show email exchanges between Brown and Taylor regarding the jail. Though, the Jan. 19 letter from Taylor to Walker also notes, "The county administrator and I have had a few conversations and at least one virtual meeting. However, there are also needs which only County Council can meet."
The Friday statement from county attorney Wright notes that the county has taken action to make improvements at the jail since the last inspection report was issued.
"The Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center staff, Richland County Administration, and Richland County Council have taken concrete measures and allocated millions of dollars to ensure the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center becomes the facility that it needs to be," the statement added. "No County Council member is becoming rich by being a public servant, but all have shown their dedication by their actions. Legitimate investigations have been done and are in process. Let us all allow those with the heavy responsibility of service do their jobs."
Wright's statement also claimed that reports and statements made about conditions at the jail have made it difficult for the county to hire staff there.
Five inmates charged with murder, conspiracy for killing at Alvin S. Glenn detention center
Four people have died at the jail in the last 12 months.
In February 2022, 27-year-old Lason Butler was found dead in his cell at the jail. An autopsy revealed he died of dehydration, and a report noted he had rat bites on his body. The Richland County Coroner deemed the death a homicide.
Thirty-eight-year-old James Mitchell was found dead Dec. 7 at the jail, but that's all the information that has been shared about his death.
On Jan. 17, Demond Thompson died just two hours after arriving to the jail. The county has not shared any information about Thompson's death beyond confirming the death to The State.
On Jan. 27, Antonius Randolph was found murdered at the facility. Five other detainees have been charged in his killing.
In addition to the state taking action against the jail, local attorney Bakari Sellers and the Strom Law Firm have also asked the U.S. Department of Justice to formally look into the problems at the jail.