The Columbia State reports that the treatment of mentally ill prison inmates in South Carolina is so substandard that it's unconstitutional, a state judge ruled Wednesday in a historic decision on a 2005 class-action lawsuit. “Evidence in this case has proved that inmates have died in the S.C. Department of Corrections for lack of basic mental health care,” Judge Michael Baxley wrote in his 45-page order. He cited numerous individual cases as evidence of “a system that is inherently flawed in many respects, understaffed, underfunded and inadequate.”
Baxley called the lawsuit “the most troubling” of the 70,000 cases he has handled in his 14 years on the bench. He said the Department of Corrections had known for a decade that “its mental health program is systemically deficient and exposes seriously mentally ill inmates to a substantial risk of serious harm.” He gave the department 180 days to plan remedies. The state said it would appeal.