By Muhammad Al-Mujahidin
The South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) has to be one of, if not the most, inept, incompetent and poorly managed agencies in the state government (as will be made abundantly clear in the proceeding statement).
I am an inmate within the SCDC who is currently housed at the Broad River Correctional Institute (BRCI), which houses many of the state’s inmates dealing with mental health issues. Therefore the following incidents are based on my personal observations and experiences.
On January 6, 2018, while in the Murray Unit, which housed inmates with mild to severe mental health problems at the time, I was housed two rooms down from an inmate named I. Starks. On or about January 2, 2018 an inmate with a history of assaulting and killing his cellmates was moved into Starks’ cell. I heard Starks ask to be moved out of that cell because “my roommate says he’s going to kill me.” The unit classification worker, Ms. S. Jackson, refused to move Starks despite being told by the perpetrator himself that he was indeed going to kill Starks; he also made these remarks to other staff. On January 6th, a Sunday night, I heard Starks begin to scream loud, blood curdling screams. Not one Corrections Officer came to investigate. In fact, no staff came until around 7:30am the next morning, at which point the killer stated he “had a dead body in his cell.” Starks had been severely beaten and suffered a broken neck and back. His killer wasn’t even supposed to be in that unit or the institution.
There is actually a unit here where inmates are chained to a table. I have witnessed inmates mutilate themselves only to be told by corrections staff, “You didn’t do it right,” or “I don’t care if you bleed to death,” and “Kill yourself.” I have heard and continue to hear this from the incompetent and poorly trained SCDC staff!
For a time I was housed with an inmate named Z. McClurkins who liked to start fires. One day in September or October of 2018 he decided to burn our cell. When I woke up the cell was engulfed in smoke and flames. An officer sprayed fire retardant into the cell, but refused to allow my roommate and I to shower, change linens or clean the cell. He said he was told by his supervisor, Captain Livingston, not to open the cell for any reason. These are just a few of the incidents I have witnessed and/or experienced in the past year at BRCI.
The prison has been on lock down since the killings at Lee Correctional Institute in early 2018 and there appears to be no real reason behind the lockdown here other than they’re doing it simply because they can. Inmates are being fed in their cells. Corrections staff are now accustomed to not having to interact with inmates or do any significant work so much so that they use any excuse to continue the lock down. They are literally being paid to do nothing—if the entire inmate population is locked down, what is there to do?
SCDC has placed metal plates on all the cell windows so that inmates cannot see outside or even see the sky. It seems as if one is buried deep underground, confined to a tomb, lost, forgotten. There has been no outside recreation for over a year.
We have been put in a position in which those of us who have prior mental health problems are having them exacerbated exponentially by department practices and those of us who are borderline are being conditioned to act out in negative ways.
At present there are only two mental health counselors for the entire inmate population at BRCI. This is a population of over 1,200 people. It is inconceivable that these two individuals can possibly counsel that many inmates effectively, although they try.
The SCDC is failing and doing a grave disservice to those mental health inmates in its care. The department is not even attempting to comply with and implement a 2016 consent agreement. I would go as far as saying this is an intentional and deliberate act in which the SCDOC, Governor Henry McMaster and the state legislature are all complicit.
You, the public, should know and realized that most of these men and women will eventually return to society. You should be concerned about their treatment now so you won’t have to worry about yours later.