Inmate injured in mob attack sues Pickens Co. sheriff, county

Published: May. 30, 2016 at 6:43 PM EDT|Updated: May. 31, 2016 at 8:58 AM EDT
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PICKENS COUNTY, SC (WYFF) -- An inmate injured last month in a mob attack at the Pickens County Detention Center has filed a lawsuit, blaming overcrowding at the jail for the violence.

The lawsuit filed May 18 on behalf of Jonathan Ledbetter names Sheriff Rick Clark, the Pickens County Sheriff Office and Pickens County as defendants.

The attack April 22 left Ledbetter and another inmate with injuries that required emergency medical care.

Eight inmates, ranging in age from 24 to 33, are charged with assault and battery by a mob, Chief Deputy Creed Hashe said.

Hashe said the assault happened in an area with a capacity of 32 inmates, but at the time, there were 65 inmates assigned to the area.  The detention facility's total capacity is 93.  On the day of the attack, there were 226 inmates incarcerated.

Clark said he has been trying to remedy the overcrowding at the detention facility for years.

"We routinely see that confrontations among inmates tend to rise during periods where the jail population grows well over 200," Clark said. "Our officers work diligently to make the environment as safe as possible, but with the number of people in such a small area of square footage it is a huge challenge.

"I am encouraged by the Council's movement to investigate potential solution to this issue, and it is my hope that appropriate measure will continue to be taken to minimize the risks and hazards exposed to our detention personnel and to the inmates that are detained within the facility."

The lawsuit says two federal consultants from the U.S. Department of Justice's National Institute of Corrections visited the detention center and "a violent altercation at the detention center is an even waiting to happen" given the stress of massive overcrowding.

Michael Morris, 34, died at the detention center in September 2015. Clark said Morris had been jailed for three months on multiple counts of criminal sexual conduct when he was found dead.

Clark said Morris was housed by himself in arraignment room being used as a cell because of jail overcrowding.

The lawsuit says the detention center staff was "grossly negligent with respect to the conditions leading up to and/or the response to the attack on Ledbetter."  It seeks a declaratory judgment, an award that would preclude further violation of Ledbetter's rights, attorney fees and the cost of filing the lawsuit.

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