NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano is responding to criticism her agency has faced in recent weeks from state, local, and federal leaders.
Earlier this week, Charleston County leaders and U.S. Congresswoman Nancy Mace called for a Department of Justice Investigation into the Al Cannon Detention Center following recent inmate deaths.
“We know what we need,” says Sheriff Graziano. “They totally disregarded the subject matter experts, and I’m really just sick of fighting for them to do what’s right. Just do their job. Just do their job so we can do ours.”
This week, members of the Charleston County Council and Congresswoman Mace requested a federal investigation over what they called ‘troubling and tragic deaths’ since Sheriff Graziano took office.
The Sheriff says those deaths have come at the hands of the county’s contracted medical provider and says her agency began raising concerns early last year before asking for a new provider. With the county set to potentially vote on a new medical provider contract this week, Sheriff Graziano says county council has ignored her agency’s concerns.
“They’re not getting the information to make a sound decision so the fact that they are going to vote on something when they don’t have the big picture, the whole picture is really disturbing to me,” says Sheriff Graziano.
Sheriff Graziano says inmates entering the detention center are younger and sicker than she’s ever seen, suffering from overdoses and mental health issues. Graziano says without support or funding from officials, it’s hard to resolve the issue.
“We’re working with the Department of Mental Health to do things that we can’t get done on the state level so we’re going to do it here,” says Sheriff Graziano. “And we’re having to do that with zero funding. Zero funding.”
Documents released this week by the Sheriff’s Office show staff raising concerns about Wellpath, citing transparency and leadership concerns leading to inadequate operations within the jail. Graziano says she opposes the county’s new medical provider, which could be approved this coming Tuesday.
“We will work with whatever provider comes in here, but we will also hold them accountable, and we won’t wait,” says Sheriff Graziano. “I’ve told the county we’re not going to wait for a contract to expire. I’m just not going to do it.”
Sheriff Graziano says she plans to work with her staff and the new medical provider while exploring outside options to better the care of Charleston County inmates.
“In the end, it’s my responsibility for the care and safety of the people in this building, and if I can’t rely on the people they’re contracting, then it’s counterproductive,” says Sheriff Graziano. “We’re not getting anywhere, and it’s just setting them up for failure. So, you can’t have it one way or the other. You’re either with us or you’re not, and if you’re not going to support us, move aside and let us do our job.”
Charleston County Council is expected to vote on Tuesday to approve the next medical provider for the Al Cannon Detention Center, something Sheriff Graziano says her agency strongly opposes.