Richland County jail violations more than double in latest SC audit as troubles mount | Columbia News
COLUMBIA — The Richland County Jail had more than double the number of violations in its most recent state review than it did in 2020 or 2021.
These continued to include too many inmates per unit and insufficient staff to consistently supervise them, as well as maintenance issues, including smoke-damaged units, broken door locks, faulty plumbing, and leaking pipes containing raw sewage.
In some cases, detainees were incorrectly housed, including women awaiting trial, mixed with those already sentenced, or left unattended.
Overall, after an October inspection of Richland County’s Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, the SC Department of Corrections found that the prison violated more than a dozen state standards.
The state Department of Health and Environmental Control also lowered the prison’s food quality rating from A to C after an inspection in January. In a restaurant, consecutive C grades can result in DHEC suspending a restaurant’s permit or fined it for each violation proven. The inspectors also said in the report that they would follow up within 10 days to see if any changes had been made.
The State Department of Corrections’ annual inspection came a month before interim director Crayman Harvey announced a series of sweeping changes planned for the prison, beginning with the closure of single units and their replacement with mental health units and “step-down”. -Units for inmates that are also considered inmates aggressive to stay in the general population.
Harvey said he plans to remodel parts of the prison, including renovating the kitchen and replacing porcelain toilets with steel ones.
Two inmates have died in prison in the past 11 months. The county coroner ruled the first death in February 2022 was a homicide and said prison staff failed to take adequate steps to ensure inmate Lason Butler was hydrated. The Sheriff’s Department is investigating the Jan. 27 death of Antonius Randolph as a homicide.
A series of TikTok videos posted in mid-January claiming to be inside the detention center showed similar conditions, including clogged toilets, water-covered floors and undercooked food. In a statement, the county said some of the videos were shot in restricted areas and exposed security flaws that allowed inmates access to contraband cell phones.
Richland County spokeswoman Susan O’Cain said Jan. 31 that the county was “making progress,” but declined to provide more information about the prison’s improvements or any response to the recent state audit.
Staffing remained a major issue for state auditors, although the county had 26 other detention officers at the time of the 2021 inspection. The prison was 48 percent occupied, up from 35 percent a year earlier after 50 jobs were frozen and their salaries used to pay for pay rises.
Still, the prison, which is facing multiple lawsuits over inmate conditions, has yet to return to December 2020 levels, when 65 percent of its officer positions were filled.
“The facility continues to be forced to charge overtime for existing employees, and even then, staffing coverage is inadequate,” the report said.
The report also noted that the prison has no permanent director following the sacking of former director Tyrell Cato in September. District Administrator Leonardo Brown said on January 5 he was not yet looking for a new director, instead focusing on improvements to the prison while Harvey ran the operations.
Due to the lack of officers, five housing units have been closed at the prison – one more than at the 2021 inspection – while another remained unattended, according to the report.
Several open units were congested, “due at least in part to the fact that some of the other residential areas were closed,” the report said.
During the inspection, no officers observed inmates working in the kitchen, and the report questioned whether the prison had enough workers to provide 24-hour guarding of the Special Housing, an isolated part of the prison for inmates known as a has been designated danger to self or others when necessary.
The inmates lived in smoky units, in at least one case without a bed. Other units had failing plumbing, no toilets, water damage, garbage buildup in pipes, or corroded sprinklers.
According to the report, “what looked like raw sewage” leaked from pipes in the special accommodation. The pest control needed an upgrade. Cell and corridor door locks in parts of the prison did not work properly, and intercoms throughout the building were broken.
Brown said during the county’s Jan. 26 strategic planning meeting that he plans to prioritize the prison in the upcoming fiscal cycle.
“Almost everything at the facility is sadly decades old, which means most of the facility is outdated, sometimes making repairs impossible due to outdated equipment and making replacements more expensive,” Brown said. “I will work with (the district) council to determine how best to address the financial needs of the detention center.”
In some cases, inmates were incorrectly housed.
According to the report, female inmates awaiting trial and those already convicted were housed together, which violated two separate state standards, and one inmate with a disability lived in a unit that failed to meet Americans with Disabilities Act standards.
According to the report, staff training needed to be updated, particularly on fire safety and how to report maintenance issues. It found that officers in some parts of the prison did not have the keys needed to set off the fire alarms.
Previous government audits have focused primarily on staffing, with little or no mention of maintenance or hygiene concerns, aside from the fact that the prison consistently has too few toilets for the number of inmates it houses.
Under state law, a prison’s governing body, in this case Richland County Council, is expected to meet “promptly” upon receipt of the Department of Correction’s annual inspection report to review its findings. The county had 90 days after receiving the report on Jan. 23 to begin addressing the issues it identified.
DHEC found problems with the prison’s diet and lowered the prison’s food quality from A to C after a routine inspection on Jan. 25. The prison received C ratings in seven inspections conducted between May and June last year, before it jumped back up to A in September. Two reviews in October earned him a B and an A.
The January report found that kitchen staff did not wash their hands between cleaning and cooking, several sinks were malfunctioning or clogged, and the person in charge of the kitchen was not certified by the state to handle food.
The DHEC inspector found numerous food safety violations. Cooked meats were stored next to raw egg mix, salami and hamburger meat were left outside or not cooked to the right temperature, and groceries were stored right on the floor.
Chemicals were left on a food shelf above the prep station, posing a risk of contamination. The dishes were stored outside and were therefore exposed to the elements. Walk-in doors are “in poor condition,” the report said.
The state ordered Richland County to conduct a personnel analysis, which it has reminded the county to do “on more than one occasion,” according to the report, adding the South Carolina Association of Counties will do so free of charge upon request.
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too many inmates, not enough staff to consistently supervise them