March 9, 2012, Testimony

Today, SCDC offered testimony from Clinical Correctional Counselor Paul Dennis, Lead Counselor for the Department of Corrections’ Lee Correctional Institution.

Mr. Dennis testified regarding his interactions with inmates in providing mental health services.  As a clinical correctional counselor, Dennis must review disciplinary charges against those inmates on his caseload and determine whether the inmate is mentally capable of being held accountable for his actions. SCDC policy provides that a mentally ill inmate may be found guilty but not accountable for disciplinary infractions. Mr. Dennis recalled the last time he made such a recommendation was about five years ago. 

He testified he does not have time now to hold group therapy sessions, but that he had been conducting eight groups per month.  He suggested that he has observed inmates in group therapy who were handcuffed and in belly chains, and that they appeared to be uncomfortable.

Dennis admitted that audits of his own mental health case load noted deficiencies, professing that those audits have in fact made him a better counselor by clarifying the mental health policy requirements. Specifically, Dennis explained that prior to being audited, a practice that began in 2010, he was not aware that he must see certain inmates at least every thirty days. He explained that he previously thought the policy to mean monthly, meaning that he only had to visit his inmates once each month, regardless whether one visit was at the beginning of one month and the end of the next, potentially exceeding 30 days.

According to Dennis, of the four counselors currently at Lee, including himself, none are licensed, and only one has a master’s degree.  He suggested that the number of mentally ill on the counselors' caseloads were such that even if all counselors held a full load of group therapy sessions, it still would be insufficient to accommodate the numbers of inmates who need to attend group.

Dennis was also asked about Medication Administration Records, which counselors are required to monitor.  He testified that as long as inmates take some of their prescribed medications within a three-day period, then they are considered medication compliant.  He suggested that in that situation the psychiatrists consider it okay because the inmate is as least getting some of the medication into his system, that taking some is better than taking none.  Such a suggestion is completely contradictory to all testimony presented so far in this case.

Court was adjourned until Monday, March 12, 2012, at 9 a.m.