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Attorney urges federal intervention after 3 deaths in one year at S.C. jail

In the jail’s most recent audit, officials found the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center was in violation of more than a dozen state standards


Three people have died while being detained at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County in the past 12 months.

Photo/Tracy Glantz via MCT

By Morgan Hughes
The State

RICHLAND COUNTY, S.C. — Three people have died while being detained at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Richland County in the past 12 months.

An attorney for one of those people now wants to get the federal government involved.

Bakari Sellers, who represents the family of Lason Butler, who died at the jail last February and whose death was ruled a homicide by the county coroner, said he now wants the U.S. Department of Justice to conduct its own review into the jail and county leadership.

“We want them to turn County Council upside down,” Sellers told The State on Wednesday. “Look at the email traffic, the phone records, whatever they have have that can help us determine the failures on the part of all of those who are in charge of decision-making at Alvin S. Glenn.”

The hope is that the Department of Justice issues a consent decree or some other action that requires policy changes at the detention center, Sellers said.

In addition to asking the Justice Department to intervene, Sellers also plans to file five new lawsuits against the jail on behalf of inmates who he said suffered harm while incarcerated at the jail.

“There’s no excuse for the inaction or the inability to actually consider the lives of real people, simply because they’re here in the detention center,” Sellers said.

In February 2022, 27-year-old Lason Butler was found dead in his cell at the jail. An autopsy revealed he died of dehydration, and a report noted he had rat bites on his body. The Richland County Coroner deemed the death a homicide.

“The conditions that led to his death, people should not only be ashamed but somebody probably should go to prison,” Sellers said at the time. “There needs to be community outrage over this.”

In early December, another person died while being detained at the jail.

Thirty-eight-year-old James Mitchell was found dead Dec. 7 at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center, but that’s all the information that has been shared about his death. The Richland County Sheriff’s Department has not responded to multiple requests for an incident report regarding Mitchell’s death.

Last week, another person being detained at the jail was found dead. Antonius Randolph, 29, was arrested Jan. 21 on multiple charges of kidnapping, assault and battery and criminal sexual conduct. Six days later, Randolph died in a jail cell. An incident report completed by the Richland County Sheriff’s Department described the death as a murder.

“People should not just be popping up dead at the detention center,” Sellers said. He believes the Justice Department will act on his request for a review of the jail quickly. He plans to formalize that request no later than Friday.

Beyond the deaths at the jail, numerous other problems at the facility have also been flagged, both by local news reports and by state audits.

In September, the jail fired its short-lived director, Tyrell Cato, who had been fired from his previous job in Kershaw County for sexually harassing a coworker.

Cato’s firing came after The State reported in August that Cato had been accused of harassment by other employees years before his firing.

In the jail’s most recent audit, the South Carolina Department of Corrections found the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center was in violation of more than a dozen state standards, information first reported by The Post and Courier.

On Jan. 18, Richland County responded to a TikTok video that claimed to have been filmed at Alvin S. Glenn showing unsanitary conditions at the jail, including that multiple inmates were being kept in a room with no working toilet or sink.

“We have reviewed the recent videos posted on social media from the detention center, and we recognize they show some legitimate concerns that our staff is working diligently to address,” the county’s statement read.

The statement went on to say the videos show flaws in the jail’s security system, given the presence of contraband cellphones.

“Bolstering our detention center staff remains one of the most important ways we can mitigate these issues,” the statement added.

A spokesperson for Richland County was not immediately reached by The State Wednesday.

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