Last month, Judge J. Michael Baxley found in favor of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit brought eight years ago by a group representing some 3,500 mentally ill prisoners. The plaintiffs sought to force the S.C. Department of Corrections to develop and fund a "reasonable and adequate system for the mental health care of inmates suffering from mental illness."
In his ruling, Baxley wrote that this case was the most troubling he had seen in his 14 years of experience. His ruling stated 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."
This lawsuit was originally brought in 2005. How long before that were deplorable conditions developing such that anyone finally thought that a protesting lawsuit was viable? Why did the suit drag on for eight years?
And how, after reading Judge Baxley's 45-page decision, can anyone stomach the idea of an appeal, which is the stated intention of the Corrections Department? Do you want your tax dollars used to defend the status quo and those whose actions or inaction have enabled it? Or instead used to ameliorate this appalling situation?
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The department reports directly to Gov. Nikki Haley, and 17 state senators serve on the committee charged with overseeing the department, including our local representatives, Sen. Clementa Pinckney and Sen. Tom Davis. All should hear from outraged South Carolinians.
Hilton Head Island