On June 25, 2015, the attorneys of Evans Moore, Scott Evans and James “Boo” Moore, were interviewed for an upcoming documentary produced by non-profit Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc., which highlights the crisis facing the mentally ill in South Carolina’s state prison system.
Evans Moore were approached for this interview due to their successful track record of litigating civil cases on behalf of individuals and their families who have needlessly suffered from neglect, abuse, and mistreatment within the South Carolina Department of Corrections. During this interview, Scott and James engage in candid discussions regarding the effects of the deficit of mental health services within our State’s prison system on the lives of inmates, their families, and its impact on the citizens of our great state.
The documentary, slated for release in fall 2016, will also bring light to Circuit Judge Michael Baxley’s recent ruling in the class action lawsuit filed against the Department of Corrections, T.R., P.R., K.W., et al. v. South Carolina Department of Corrections, et al.
The class action suit, filed in June 2005 by Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, Inc. on behalf of inmates with serious mental health needs, alleges inadequate mental health treatment for prisoners held statewide by the S.C. Department of Corrections. The lawsuit did not seek financial damages; rather, it charged the court with requiring the department to design and maintain a program that provides adequate treatment of inmates with mental illness.
In his Order dated January 8, 2014, Judge Baxley opined that this case was the “most troubling” of the 70,000 cases to come before him in the past 14 years. “The evidence in this case has proved that inmates have died in the South Carolina Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care, and hundreds more remain substantially at risk for serious physical injury, mental decompensation, and profound, permanent mental illness. As a society, and as citizen jurors and judges make decisions that send people to prison, we have the reasonable expectation that those in prison – even though it is prison – will have their basic health needs met by the state that imprisons them. And this includes mental health. The evidence in this case has shown that expectation to be misplaced in many instances,” Baxley wrote.
South Carolina houses some 23,000 inmates, with more than 3,000 inmates with serious mental illness diagnoses (SCDC data as of June 30, 2011).
The Judge noted that providing mental health services to inmates has significance beyond the prison walls. “What happens at the Department of Corrections impacts all of us, whether it is from the discharge of untreated seriously mentally ill individuals from prison into the general population, or tremendously increased costs for treatment and care that might have been prevented, or the needless increase in human suffering when use of force replaces medical care. The decisions of our Courts reflect the values of our society. To that end, our state can no longer tolerate a mental health system at the South Carolina Department of Corrections that has broken down due to lack of finances and focus,” he wrote.
The Judge’s order requires the corrections department to remedy constitutional violations by submitting a remedial plan within six months to include: development of screening and mental health treatment programs; a plan to employ sufficient mental health professionals; a plan to maintain treatment records and administer psychotropic medication with appropriate supervision and periodic evaluation; and a program to identify, treat, and supervise inmates at risk for suicide.
For more information on cases handled by Evans Moore, the Protection and Advocacy Class Action, and a copy of the Order, please visit http://www.mentalhealth4inmates.org.