ACLU Calls For Independent Audit Of South Carolina Department Of Corrections
Allegations Of Abuse And Mismanagement Mandate Oversight
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CHARLESTON, SC – The American Civil Liberties Union’s South Carolina Office today called on state officials to ask the National Institute of Corrections (NIC) to perform an independent audit of the South Carolina Department of Corrections in the face of charges of lax security, inmate abuse and a politicized, hostile work environment. The Legislative Audit Council last week scrapped a plan to survey the department’s employees after the department’s director charged that the effort was politically motivated.
In a letter sent today to Gov. Mark Sanford, members of the general assembly and members of the Budget and Control Board, Graham Boyd, Interim Executive Director of the ACLU’s South Carolina Office, said independent oversight is essential, particularly given the charges of abuse and mismanagement that have been unveiled in the last several years.
“With the population exploding and the corrections budget ever smaller, prison conditions within the state’s Department of Corrections have deteriorated dramatically in recent years. There has been no accountability to the taxpayers who fund the system, the employees who work in the prisons or the individuals who are incarcerated in them,” said Boyd. “Given the current political environment surrounding this issue, it is clear that an independent agency is needed to properly assess and identify the problems that exist and to begin to create a plan to ensure that those problems are attended to without delay.”
The ACLU has received numerous complaints during the past several years from prisoners in South Carolina who complain about grossly inadequate medical and mental health care, involuntary drugging and physical restraint of inmates with mental illness, sexual assault, overcrowding and harsh disciplinary measures without due process. Recent media reports about facilities across the state have also suggested that employee misconduct is rampant and that prisoners are routinely subjected to degrading treatment.
The state’s Department of Corrections has been under fire since last summer, when a state senate panel began looking into specific charges that included the covering up of the sexual assault of an employee and the use of inmate labor and prison equipment for fishing and hunting trips. The department has also been levied with a number of legal judgments, including the awarding of $600,000 in damages to an inmate who was beaten by prison guards.
The NIC, an agency within the U.S. Department of Justice which has expertise in corrections policies and practices, provides free technical assistance to state departments of corrections. In order for a state to obtain assistance from the NIC, the director of a state’s correctional department must request it. John Ozmint, director of the South Carolina Department of Corrections, is a member of Gov. Sanford’s cabinet.
“Utilizing the National Institute of Corrections will be an essential first step toward ensuring that the prison system in our state functions in a way that is healthy and humane both for the system’s employees and its prisoners,” said Boyd.
A copy of the ACLU South Carolina Office’s letter can be found online at: www.aclusouthcarolina.org/newsroom/newsroom.html
Additional information about the ACLU can be found online at: www.aclu.org
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