The State of South Carolina has agreed to enter mediation with plaintiffs of a lawsuit brought against the state’s prison system over the treatment of mentally ill inmates in state prisons. Despite the decision to enter mediation, the lawsuit itself will proceed concurrently.
The lawsuit dates back to 2005. In early 2014, Circuit Judge Michael Baxley found the State had mistreated mentally ill inmates in its charge and was responsible for civil rights violations, some of which had resulted in the death of inmates. He ordered the agency to submit a plan for improvements within six months. This decision has prompted the state to take a more proactive and conciliatory tone with the plaintiffs.
Initially the state sought an agreement to suspend litigation if it engaged in mediation, but the plaintiffs of the lawsuit refused and insisted that litigation proceed. Once this requirement was dropped, mediation was agreed to by both sides, and initial expectations are optimistic. The State asserts that it has already made many improvements that should be taken into account during the mediation process.