CHARLESTON COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Congresswoman Nancy Mace has joined Charleston County leaders in asking the U.S. Department of Justice for an investigation into the Al Cannon Detention Center.
In a letter to Attorney General Merrick Garland dated last week, U.S. Rep. Nancy Mace (R-SC) noted a “significantly high number of recent deaths” at the jail between 2018 and 2022.
Rep. Mace detailed at least two of the recent inmate deaths in her letter, including that of Julian Jenkins, who died after suffering a medical emergency while being housed at the detention center.
“…there are concerns he didn’t receive the medical care he needed while in custody. Our understanding is Jenkins wasn’t able to make bond, and subsequently received a death sentence for a three-year-old shoplifting charge,” she wrote.
Mace also outlined the circumstances of the death of D’Angelo Brown, who was allegedly living in squalor at the jail prior to his death. It’s Brown’s death that prompted Charleston County Councilman Teddie Pryor to initially call on the DOJ for an investigation.
Brown’s death was ruled a homicide by medical neglect, according to the Charleston County Coroner’s Office. The January 2021 in-custody death of Jamal Sutherland was also mentioned in the letter.
“Given the seriousness of these issues, we believe an investigation may be necessary to ensure federal civil rights violations are not occurring at the detention center,” Mace wrote.
She believes the DOJ’s expertise and resources may help provide an unbiased and comprehensive review of the circumstances surrounding the deaths “and ensure similar tragedies do not occur again.”
“An investigation by the DOJ will help restore public trust and confidence in this facility, and ensure justice for the families of those who have passed away while in custody,” Mace added.
Councilwoman Mace and members of Charleston County Council toured the detention center on Monday. She said a major part of the problem was mental health issues and staffing concerns.
“A statistically significant portion of the folks at the Charleston County Detention Center has mental health issues, but this is not a mental health hospital,” said Rep. Mace after the tour. “Significant resources for mental health services need to be allocated for facilities like this. Additionally, we need to address staffing shortages and find ways to better compensate our law enforcement officers within these facilities.”
Congresswoman Mace said officials need to ensure that the jail’s medical provider and supporting detention center staff are upholding their services at the facility.
Sheriff Kristin Graziano said Rep. Mace and councilmembers were able to see the areas within the facility where inmates are booked and screened along with the Behavioral Management Unit, Medical Unit, and an open-bay housing unit that is currently being converted to accommodate classrooms and other programs.
Medical care at the detention center is provided by Wellpath LLC, which has “a well-known and well-documented history of providing allegedly unconstitutional and substandard medical services resulting in thousands of lawsuits throughout the country,” according to a lawsuit filed after Brown’s death.
The contract with Wellpath is set to expire in June and the sheriff’s office said that the county began accepting bids from prospective providers in December.
A medical staff contractor at Al Cannon Detention Center was arrested earlier this month after being accused of trying to furnish contraband at the jail. The woman was a certified medical assistant for Wellpath, according to the sheriff’s office.