CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Calls for change are continuing to ring through the Lowcountry as both activist groups and legislators said the death of Jamal Sutherland — an inmate at the Al Cannon Detention Center — is yet another example of how the criminal justice system is broken. On Wednesday, Lawmakers met to speak on how to better legislation to make sure this never happens again.
The ‘Emergency Meeting’ held by Representative Wendell Gilliard and Representative JA Moore on Wednesday served as a reminder that more action needs to be taken to ensure safety for those dealing with a mental health crisis.
Representative JA Moore explained that the whole system failed Jamal. From a lack of training with mental health individuals to a lack of resources, legislators are left with much to tackle.
As it’s a culture that must be changed. Representative Moore said that he is driven in the motions of compassion and the strength of Amy Sutherland, the mother of Jamal Sutherland.
Amy Sutherland addressed those in the ‘Emergency Meeting’ by noting that if someone had compassion for her son, he’d still be alive. Even more, Sutherland said, “everybody failed to realize that he had a family. He was complying.”
Senator Marlon Kimpson said this issue of mental health, unfortunately, did not begin with Jamal, rather with Ms. Newton and Ms. Green who died while being shackled in a Horry County Sheriff’s Office van and ultimately dying after being trapped in floodwaters. The two were being transported to a mental hospital.
With 3 bills filed (H.4404, H.4405, and H.4406) on behalf of Sutherland’s treatment and a potential amendment to S.303 from the 2019 session, Representative Marvin Pendarvis said the idea of modern policing needs to be re-imagined.
Representative Pendarvis said, “should law enforcement be in the business of social workers and being mental health professionals, and really that’s what this entire conversation is born out of. How do we ensure that we are making sure that law enforcement fulfills what their obligation is and not putting more on them than is necessary?”
House Minority Leader Todd Rutherford said the answer is through resources. The Minority Leader went on add, that they want the resources to be given so that the job can be done correctly.
Even more, he said, “if what it took was another million dollars to make sure that Mr. Sutherland did not lose his life at the jail, then we should’ve allocated that.” With a $30 million budget in the state, resources such as a mobile crisis center could be allocated.
Representative JA Moore said, for now, in-between sessions, he, along with the House Minority Leader is working on funding, as when speaking on resources such as mobile crisis units and adding more funding to the mental health. However, community involvement will be needed through additional meetings with community stakeholders.
Moore explained, “there’s a lot of work that we can do not just for and not only for Justice for Jamal but for the system and for people that too often are being killed quite frankly by law enforcement.”