Attorneys for the family of Lason Butler, a man who died at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in Columbia, South Carolina, last year, have requested that the U.S. Department of Justice investigate what they have noted as inhumane conditions and violence at the prison.
Butler was just 27 when he reportedly died on Feb. 12, 2022, while in custody at Alvin S. Glenn. The autopsy report stated that he died from dehydration. However, the Richland County coroner ruled his death a homicide and referenced the “lack of action” by the prison staff.
Inmates at Alvin S. Glenn reportedly noted that water in Butler’s cell was off, and there were reports of unsanitary conditions in his cell. Butler was reportedly found naked on the floor of his cell during rounds, and non-responsive but ignored. He reportedly was exhibiting erratic behavior at the time of his intake and he was placed in the facility’s special housing unit so authorities could monitor his mental health.
An attorney representing Butler’s family, Bakari Sellers, called the prison a “death trap” and submitted a letter to assistant attorney general Kristen Clarke. The letter noted that other inmates reported the water being off in Butler’s cell, and pointed to unsanitary conditions in his cell. Butler was reportedly found naked on the floor of his cell during rounds and non-responsive but ignored.
“Other inmates have reported that the water was off in his cell, and others,” the letter reads. “It was also reported that Butler was heard throughout the night begging for someone to help him, including crying out for someone to get the rats to leave him alone.”
Butler’s body was covered with rat bites, and he lost 15 percent of his body weight during the 12 days he was detained at the prison, Sellers pointed out. He reportedly had been arrested on Jan. 31 for taking his cousin’s vehicle without permission and for traffic violations.
“Alvin S. Glenn is a death trap,” said Sellers. “This culture of neglect has infested their administration and staff as surely as rats infest the cells and, if Richland County refuses to do anything about it, maybe the DOJ will.”
The request comes just after the death of another inmate, 29-year-old Antonius Randolph.
Randolph died inside the prison on Jan. 27 at 8 p.m. However, his body wasn’t discovered until the following afternoon. According to Sheriff Leon Lott, five other inmates were charged with killing Randolph. Devin Rowe, James Oxendine Jr., Jayun Harrison, Erick Stewart and Daylan Isreal each were charged with murder and conspiracy.
An investigation found that many of the doors of inmates’ cells did not lock.
Lott confirmed that some cells did not have locks, leaving inmates with “access to get out and do whatever they want to do, which is commit a murder.”
Attorneys for the Butler family called for the DOJ to investigate the “apathy and malfeasance” at the prison, according to a Feb. 3 press release. One of their attorneys, Pete Strom, called the conditions criminal.
“The conditions at Alvin S. Glenn are worse than deplorable; they’re criminal,” said Strom. “How many people have to die before Richland County takes it seriously?”
The family also filed a federal lawsuit in August 2022 against six jail employees and Richland County. A video of the conditions inside the jail released in January shows water and waste on the floor of the cell.
An inmate on the video described the conditions in the cell. “The toilet broke,” said the inmate. “We’re locked behind these doors for numerous amount of hours and stuff like that. The sink don’t even work. The water don’t even cut on. No water, no nothin’… We’re dehydrated and all that.” He went on to say 20 more rooms in the prison were in the same condition.
Alexandra Benevento is also an attorney for the Butler family, and said the unsanitary conditions inside the prison were ‘the rule.”
“This is some of the worst depravity and neglect I’ve ever seen and, at Alvin S. Glenn, that’s not the exception. It’s the rule,” said Benevento. “I can’t imagine treating anyone like this and it’s time to hold Richland County accountable.”
The founder of Building Back Better communities said that the prison being understaffed is an issue that needed to be addressed. “We all know there is a hiring shortage, we all know they’re low staff,” said Perry Bradley of Building Back Better. “We all know what’s going on, if we sit back and show a blind eye and point the fingers, we’ll never get anything done. We have to create new solutions.”
Richland County released a statement, claiming to have taken “concrete measures” and “allocated millions” to ensure the prison becomes the “facility that it needs to be.”
“The Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center staff, Richland County Administration, and Richland County Council have taken concrete measures and allocated millions of dollars to ensure Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center becomes the facility that it needs to be,” reads the statement.
“No County Council member is becoming rich by being a public servant, but all have shown their dedication by their actions. Legitimate investigations have been done and are in process. Let us all allow those with the heavy responsibility of service to do their jobs.”