A Family Files Lawsuit After Inmate with Mental Illness Dies in Charleston Jail

The family of D’Angelo Brown, a former inmate of the Al Cannon Detention Center, has filed a lawsuit against the jail alleging that he died as a result of being deprived of medications and forced to live in squalor. Brown, who suffered from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, was prescribed a cocktail of medications to manage his symptoms but upon being booked into jail, his medications were stopped. According to the lawsuit, Brown informed an officer that he needed his medication on the fourth day he was there but did not receive any treatment.

Brown was kept in an isolated cell in the Behavioral Management Unit, where his condition deteriorated rapidly. He was found refusing meals, naked, and appearing agitated, and his cell was filled with water, urine, and feces. Brown was not seen by medical professionals until September 9 when it was noted that he “needed to be seen by mental health/medical badly”. He was then taken to the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) on September 11 due to altered mental status, given sedatives and antibiotics, and appeared to improve. Brown was discharged on September 29 with prescribed medications including intramuscular injections, Depakote, remaining doses of Klonopin, and Trazadone, but he never received any of these medications once he returned to the detention center.

Over the next few months, Brown’s condition continued to worsen, and he was found naked, growling, disorganized with flight of ideas, and unable to answer basic questions. His cell was covered in urine and feces. On December 14, over a month after Brown was observed eating feces, an expert was finally called in for a virtual “competency evaluation”. The expert determined that Brown was not mentally competent to stand trial due to his psychosis, but that his condition could be managed with the proper medication.

The following day, an order was given for Brown to undergo treatment through the South Carolina Department of Mental Health for up to 180 days for observation and treatment to restore his competency to stand trial. However, Brown did not receive that treatment before his death. On December 21, an officer and several nurses found Brown in his cell alive but unresponsive. He was taken to MUSC but never regained consciousness, dying on December 29.

The lawsuit accuses the staff at Al Cannon Detention Center of knowing about Brown’s deteriorating condition and failing to intervene on his behalf. The detention center’s failure to provide adequate care is well-documented, with Brown being one of six pre-trial inmates to die in 2022 alone. Medical care at the detention center is provided by Wellpath LLC, which has a history of providing allegedly unconstitutional and substandard medical services resulting in thousands of lawsuits throughout the country.

Charleston County Sheriff Kristin Graziano has called Wellpath’s services “woefully inadequate”. The contract with Wellpath is set to expire in June, and Charleston County has begun accepting bids from prospective providers since December. It is worth noting that the contract is with the county, not the detention center. The family’s lawsuit seeks an undisclosed amount in damages.

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