The brutal killings of four prison inmates in mental-health housing has once again brought attention to the continuing need for reform. Much has been done to improve things in the Corrections Department since Circuit Judge Michael Baxley’s order outlining the deplorable conditions for the mentally ill, but there is more to be done.
In testimony to a Senate committee, Director Bryan Stirling outlined how many of our prisons have a 70-to-1 ratio of guards to inmates and in some cases as many as 200-to-1. In contrast the federal prison system has an average ratio of 9-to-1.
We need to let our General Assembly and governor know that this is unacceptable and this is a disgrace to South Carolina. We went from more than 3,500 psychiatric beds in South Carolina 50 years ago to fewer than 500 today, and now the largest mental-health caregiver in the state is the Corrections Department.
Yes, it’s going to take some money to change this, but the cost of not changing these ratios or rebuilding our hospitals will be much more expensive in the long run.