Nelson Mullins' Stuart Andrews Testifies
On Treatment of Inmates with Severe Mental Illness
COLUMBIA, S.C. -- An attorney representing inmates with severe mental illnesses testified June 19 during the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee's Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Human Rights on their treatment in South Carolina prisons. Stuart Andrews, a partner in Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough's Columbia, S.C., office, testified on behalf of Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities, South Carolina prison inmates, and their Guardian ad Litem.
Mr. Andrews and his team in 2003 began investigating the treatment of inmates with severe mental illness as legal counsel for the prisoners, their Guardian ad Litem, and Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities. Protection and Advocacy for People with Disabilities on behalf of the inmates filed a class-action lawsuit in June 2005 alleging inadequate mental health treatment for prisoners held statewide by the S.C. Department of Corrections. The lawsuit does not seek financial damages; rather, it asks the court to require the department to design and maintain a program that provides adequate treatment of inmates with severe mental illnesses. South Carolina houses some 23,000 inmates, and evidence presented at trial indicated more than 3,000 inmates in the S.C. Department of Corrections have severe mental illnesses. The trial was held in February and March, but no decision has been made.
The subcommittee called for the hearing, "Reassessing Solitary Confinement: The Human Rights, Fiscal and Public Safety Consequences," to explore the psychological and psychiatric impact on inmates during and after their imprisonment, the higher costs of running solitary housing units, the human rights issues surrounding the use of isolation, and successful state reforms in this area. This is the first-ever Congressional hearing on solitary confinement, according to the subcommittee.
Mr. Andrews discussed the disproportionate number of South Carolina inmates with severe mental illness who are placed in solitary confinement and the lengths of their stays, some having been confined more than 10 years, according to evidence presented at trial. He tol the stories of three inmates, one of whom died of neglect in his cell.
Click here to view his testimony.
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