South Carolina – Things Haven’t Changed a Bit

South Carolina – Things Haven’t Changed a Bit

Last week after writing a blog entry about the case, I filed away Judge Baxley’s January 8th Order declaring that South Carolina’s Corrections System be overhauled to stop the unconstitutional abuse to thousands of seriously mental ill inmates.   This opinion came after seven years of hard fought and unnecessary litigation.

Why I thought Judge Baxley’s Order regarding the South Carolina case would be the end of the terror and a bright new beginning was just plain naïve.  I actually wrote in my blog post, “help is on the way.”

I didn’t just file away Judge Baxley’s opinion after I wrote about it, but I also filed away my 20 years of experience working  to stop the abuse of persons with disabilities, including the first case I ever worked on Wyatt v. Stickney.   The Wyatt case was originally filed in 1970 in Alabama against the Department of Human Services to put a stop to the unconscionable abuses of many individuals with disabilities in its institutions.   If it tells you anything about the government’s resistance to reform, I was brought in on the case in 1995(25 years later and after a consent decree signed by the parties in 1980) because Alabama persisted in abusing children and adults with mental illnesses in its institutions.   In Colorado, I also litigated against our Department of Human Services to change the treatment of the mentally ill in our jails.  That litigation took two lawsuits over a period of five years to remedy with a monitoring schedule set for ten years to ensure full compliance.

What a disappointment to find out that South Carolina appealed the ruling that finally gave way to remedy the conditions of the confinement and treatment of persons with serious mental illness in their institutions (read The Atlantic Article “South Carolina is Still Defending Its Neglectful Prisons“).

Last week I really wanted to believe that after true life horror stories were proven to a Judge with such detail and longevity there was a group of institutional administrators and officials somewhere in this country that would see the err of their ways.  I thought that their myopia would be cured so that time and precious resources could now be spent reforming to improve the conditions for people with serious mental illness.

Clearly I was temporarily amnesic to think so Pollyanna-ish.  But I do applaud counsel for their continual fight to for justice, and not standing idly by.

And, there is help on the way, just a different kind of help.



Iris Eytan is a Partner at Reilly Pozner LLP. She practices Criminal Defense with an emphasis in mental health defenses.