WIS Investigates: Suspended DJJ staff identified - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

WIS Investigates: Suspended DJJ staff identified


A WIS investigation discovered the names of the three Department of Juvenile Justice employees suspended after a 16-year-old committed suicide last week.

DJJ correctional officers Nelson Santones and Curtis Isaac and shift supervisor Lt. Lyndon Mickens were suspended pending investigations for possible criminal and disciplinary action, said Loretta Neal, DJJ public affairs director. State Law Enforcement Division and the Inspector General for the S.C. DJJ are investigating the incident.

After filing a Freedom of Information Act request, WIS learned lights out for the inmates at the Juvenile Detention Center on Shivers Road in Columbia was at 10:30 p.m. the night of inmate Alan Chase Cottrell's incident, according to DJJ policy and procedures. Cottrell was found at about 11:30 p.m. July 13 with a bed sheet around his neck. Cottrell was transported by EMS to Lexington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead at about 12:30 a.m. July 14.

Neal said Cottrell was not on watch by staff as a risk for harming himself.

Policy and procedures obtained by WIS say correctional officers should have checked on the inmates every 15 minutes during sleeping hours by shining a flashlight on the juvenile's body. After each check, the officers were to make an entry into a logbook, the policy said.

Santones, Isaac and Mickens were working a 4 p.m. to midnight shift on July 13. More than half of the time the correctional officers are working, they are responsible for making sure juveniles are safe and the facility is secure, as well as maintaining headcounts of juveniles and keeping logs of all activities. The shift supervisor's job includes coordinating security plans, supervising correctional officers, ensuring proper staff coverage is maintained at all times and keeping an inventory of all security equipment, among other responsibilities.

Santones started his job at DJJ in July 2010, while Isaac started in August 2011. Both of their salaries are under $30,000, and are not permitted to be released under FOIA.

Mickens started as a correctional officer with DJJ in April 2005. He was promoted to corporal in October 2007, sergeant in March 2011 and to his rank as lieutenant in February 2012. Mickens' salary is between $34,000 and $38,000.

WIS requested to review the personnel files for the three employees and information concerning any disciplinary action taken against them. However, that was request was denied.

"Until such time as the investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr. Cottrell are concluded and decisions regarding possible criminal and/or further disciplinary action against any of the individuals identified as having been involved in this matter have been made, access to their personnel files, information concerning any disciplinary matters contained in their files and any other information deemed to be of potential relevance to these investigations that you have, or may care to inquire about, cannot and will not be released to you," Neal wrote in a letter to WIS.

Cottrell was from Pelzer and was being held on an adult charge for first-degree burglary.

WIS will continue to follow this story and will update it as new information is available.

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