Activists put pressure on lawmakers to make changes in state prisons


A group of activists were in Columbia Tuesday to make sure lawmakers don’t forget the issue and make change.

The groups including Freedom Fighters Upstate, Prisons’ Voice, and the National Action Network are calling for a reform in sentencing, an increase in staffing and a change in attitude. 

The South Carolina President of the National Action Network Elder James Johnson was one of the first groups to head to Lee Correctional and protest following the deadly fight. 

“I called for the warden’s resignation because I felt like he shouldn’t be there because those guys that died in that prison…without some emergency plan,” explained Johnson.

It took response teams more than 2 hours to provide back up to employees at Lee Correctional after the first fight broke out. 

So now activists are putting pressure on lawmakers to put actions in place. “If the state of South Carolina has millions of dollars to put up netting then those dollars should be used to staff the educational program used to orient and change the attitude of the department,” added Efia Nwangaza of the Malcolm X Center, Greenville.

Some want more money invested into staffing and programs for inmates to help with the rehabilitation process. Others who have been contacted by inmates say they worry about the treatment behind bars. 

Melissa Hodge started a Facebook safe haven for inmates and their family members to express concerns. 

“They’re being kept on lockdown, not getting proper food, getting denied showers for days, ” said Hodge.

The groups advocating for better treatment of state inmates say they will not stop until their issues are heard and addressed. “We’ll unseat whoever we need if they do not follow through with our issues,” said U.A. Thompson.

A bill is currently being reviewed by lawmakers that would reform sentencing in the state. It would cut mandatory serving time from 85% to 65%. However, lawmakers do not think it will pass this session. 

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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