On February 11, 2008, James Bell committed suicide by taking an overdose of a prescribed medication, Amitriptylin, while in solitary confinement at Perry Correctional Institution. At the time of his suicide, Bell had been in solitary confinement for six consecutive years. During that time, he suffered from depression, cut himself, and was placed in SCDC's psychiatric hospital
On Saturday, February 9, 2008, a chaplain at Perry received a phone call from Bell’s aunt, who was very upset over a letter she had received from her nephew. According to an SCDC investigative report, available on this website, the letter appeared to be suicidal in nature. Enclosed with the letter was a copy of “The Chambered Nautilus,” a poem by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
Over two days passed before a mental health counselor or any SCDC staff person made an effort to meet with Bell to follow upon the phone call from his aunt. On Monday afternoon, February 11, a mental health counselor checked on Bell and found him dead on the floor. The coroner concluded Bell had been dead for at least twelve hours by the time his body was discovered.
It is undisputed that before killing himself Bell covered the window of his cell door. It is unclear who took down the covering or when. During the twelve hours Bell lay dead on his cell floor, periodic cell checks completed by correctional officers stated he was asleep in his bed.
Jerod Cook has been diagnosed with Major Depression with Psychotic Features. On September 1, 2009, Cook was being held in solitary confinement at Perry Correctional Institution. At 9:35 p.m. a correctional officer discovered that Cook had cut himself on his right arm. During the next 90 minutes, Cook lost a substantial amount of blood from the wounds on his arm. At some point during this period, Cook collapsed face down on the floor of his cell in a pool of his own blood. At approximately 11:00 p.m., Cook, who appeared to be barely conscious, was lifted off the floor by SCDC officers and placed on a stretcher. He was then carried to a solitary confinement cell, where he was strapped down and locked in a restraint chair with blood dripping from his arm, forming a pool on the floor. Pursuant to SCDC practice, Cook remained in the restraint chair for four hours, until shortly after 4:00 am, when he was removed, stripped naked, and placed in a crisis intervention cell. SCDC records noted that during the period he was in the restraint chair, “no medical staff is on duty.”
On January 11, 2011, inmate Laura Cumbee committed suicide by hanging herself with a bed sheet in her solitary confinement cell at Camille Graham Correctional Institution. Cumbee was diagnosed with a personality disorder. She had previously attempted suicide on December 21, 2010.
According to an SCDC internal investigation report, available on this website, on the day of her death several correctional officers and inmates observed that Cumbee was emotionally upset. Earlier in the day, one officer heard her threaten to harm herself, while another saw her standing on the sink in her cell with a sheet tied around the metal box covering the smoke detector. Neither officer relayed this information to anyone else. At 6:05 p.m. an SCDC sergeant had attempted to tell another sergeant that Cumbee had “threatened to kill herself,” but neither relayed this information to a mental health counselor or to other officers who were arriving within the hour to relieve the officers on the floor from their shift.
At 7:00 p.m. an officer who had just arrived on duty, while making rounds, noticed a sheet over the window of Cumbee’s cell door. She called to Cumbee, who told her she was using the toilet, and the officer left. At 7:30 p.m. another officer noticed the sheet, opened the cell door, and discovered Cumbee hanging from the smoke detector box. She was cut down and transported to a local hospital, where she was pronounced dead at 8:29 p.m.
Jerome Laudman was diagnosed with schizophrenia. In addition, he was mentally retarded and had a speech impediment. On February 7, 2008, Laudman was transferred to a cell in Lee Correctional Institution “Supermax” unit, a maximum solitary confinement unit within Lee's administrative segregation unit. At the time of his death eleven days later, Laudman had been in solitary confinement 232 consecutive days. During the three yearas prior to this death, Laudman was admitted into the SCDC psychiatric hospital seven times and placed on crisis intervention 15 times.
According to his mental health counselor, Laudman was neither aggressive nor threatening. No one notified the counselor of Laudman’s transfer to Lee Supermax. No one could confirm why he was there. According to an internal SCDC investigative report, Laudman was sprayed with chemical munitions and physically abused by a correctional officer during the transfer to Supermax. The move was videotaped pursuant to policy, but when viewed by the SCDC investigator, the tape was, inexplicably, mostly blank. Laudman was stripped naked and left in a completely empty Supermax cell where he remained until his death 11 days later.
On February 11, a correctional officer observed that Laudman was sick and weak but did not report it. At some point after February 11, Laudman stopped eating and taking medication. On the morning of February 18, a correctional officer saw Laudman lying on the cell floor in feces and vomit. He lay there “all morning,” according to an SCDC investigative report, available on this website. At approximately 1:30 or 2:00 p.m., two nurses were called. They reported that, in addition to feces and vomit, 15-20 trays of rotting, molding food were in the cell. The stench from the cell was so bad that both the nurses and the correctional officers refused to remove Laudman. After a further delay, two inmates came to retrieve Laudman, who was unconscious but alive. Later that afternoon, however, he died in a local hospital ER of a heart attack. The hospital report noted the presence of hypothermia.
The SCDC investigator found evidence of an attempted cover-up by correctional officers who cleaned Laudman’s cell before photographs could be taken. Even after the cleaning, the photographs taken by the investigator show the cell in a deplorably dirty state. After Laudman’s death, SCDC did no quality improvement reviews of Lee Supermax procedures and practices. In September 2008, seven months after Laudman’s death, Dr. Metzner and Dr. Patterson inspected Lee Supermax and described it as “filthy.”
Baxter Vinson has been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder. On March 8, 2008, Vinson was being held in the Behavior Modification Unit at Broad River Correctional Institution. At approximately 11:00 p.m., correctional officers discovered he had cut both his arms and his abdomen. At approximately 12:23 a.m., Vinson was strapped down in a restraint chair in the solitary confinement unit where a nurse, over Vinson's strenuous objections, attempted to press his protruding intestines back into his abdominal wall. At 2:23 a.m., two hours after being placed in the restraint chair and over three hours after his wounds were discovered, Vinson was removed from the restraint chair and transported by van to a hospital.