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March 8, 2012, Testimony

March 8, 2012: Testimony began today with the examination of Dr. Beverly Wood, Chief Psychiatrist for the S.C. Dept. of Corrections. 

Dr. Wood primarily testified regarding the efforts by SCDC to hire psychiatrists and the difficult time they have had filling psychiatrist vacancies. 

She was asked how she might learn that an inmate does not have a sufficient supply of necessary medications. She, the primary prescribing psychiatrist for the department, testified that she learns such information 1) from the inmate; 2) from the inmate’s family; 3) from an SCDC nurse; or 4) from the inmate’s counselor; she provided them in that order. 

Major Carol Gardner, Administrative Major for the SCDC Division of Training and Staff Development, testified for the defense. 

Gardner testified that although she is generally familiar with the training offered, she does not know the lesson plans on a detailed level.

Regarding the use of force on inmates, Gardner testified that SCDC “teaches officers to use conflict resolution skills first, and reserve use of force for occasions where those skills do not resolve the problem, and then use only the minimum necessary amount of force.” Although her testimony is in line with written agency policy, introduced earlier in the trial, it is in direct conflict with testimony heard earlier in the trial about actual practices, in which pepper spray is used as a primary option in large quantities.  

Gardner confirmed that the Mental Health training offered at an agency level is limited and those classes that are offered have been implemented only recently. She also testified that the suicide prevention course offered during basic training has been expanded from two to three hours in order to accommodate the inclusion of a new video segment related to dealing with mentally ill inmates. Gardner could not say how that video will be utilized in future training.

Connie Riley, SCDC Branch Chief for Recruiting, was called to testify regarding SCDC hiring practices, recruiting efforts, and recent hires. She suggested that a new psychiatrist was just hired on March 2, and that five candidates have been approved to fill counselor positions, but her department was waiting on further action from mental health or other departments.

Riley discussed her staff and their efforts to recruit correctional officers and other non-uniformed staff, including trips to job fairs, schools, etc., but testified that when it comes to mental health staff, her only role is to post the positions and process the selections. She could not say whether the mental health department utilizes similar recruiting practices. 

Judge Baxley asked the witness to provide an estimate regarding the general wait time for pending offers to candidates who have been identified as potential hires. Riley estimated the average time to be two to four weeks.

The trial resumes Friday at 9 a.m.