As a former S.C. Department of Corrections lockup officer, supervisor and institutional warden of a maximum security prison, I feel a response to your Jan. 12 editorial “The shame of S.C. prisons,” is needed.

First, it gives the impression actions regarding the mentally ill are gratuitously cruel. Second, it suggests the institutions are dirty and cold. And, lastly, it indicates that the department does not screen inmates or maintain records of medications and that it is indifferent to the risk of suicide.

The idea that inmates spend years in solitary confinement gives the impression of isolation from other people, let alone from other inmates. SCDC has very few cells of this type; in administrative segregation they have plenty of contacts with others.

The restraint chair is used in crisis situations when an individual is continuing to harm himself or others. It is not designed to be uncomfortable.

Inmates are naked because they can hang themselves with underwear, castrate themselves with shoelaces and stuff up their toilet with a paper gown.

Any institution or staff will have difficulty with people willing to do such things. Also, when the crisis passes, clothes are restored to the inmate.

Most institutions have air conditioning, all have heat, and cleaning goes on constantly.

Where did the number “3,500, or 17 percent of SCDC’s population, have serious mental illness” come from without screening?

How does the S.C. Department of Corrections stack up against other prison systems for the number of suicides? If a person is determined to harm themselves, they will succeed despite the best efforts of the staff.

Our prisons keep the pariahs of society. The editorial should have been titled “S.C. prisons, Mission Impossible.”

Stanley Burtt

S. Laurel Street