The South Carolina Department of Corrections and several of its staff members are facing a lawsuit after a mentally-ill inmate died in their custody.
Victor Rogers was 27-years-old when he died at Lee Correctional Institute, a maximum security prison near Columbia, in March of 2015.
Rogers had a documented history of schizophrenia which had landed him in and out of trouble.
“He wouldn’t take his medicine,” Rogers’ mother, Pamela Stroud, said. “He would get thrown off.”
Rogers was sentenced to seven years in prison, after his mom said he broke into a Greenville County convenience store after hours and took cigarettes and Little Debbie Cakes in 2013.
Rogers was sent to a prison where he was put in isolation. While there, the lawsuit said he became catatonic and defecated in his food trays. He saw a psychiatrist, and Rogers’ family’s lawyers said the doctor recommended Rogers never be put in that environment again.
However, for reasons unknown, SCDC transferred Rogers to a different prison.
“They put Victor in the biggest, baddest prison they have, Lee County Correctional,” Family lawyer, Chip Price, said. “He should have never been there.”
In addition, Rogers was again put in isolation after lawyers said a piece of a cell phone was found in his and his roommate’s cell.
“That’s one of the worst things you can do to someone with that type of mental illness,” Family lawyer, Charles Grose, said.
They said it’s eventually what led to Rogers’ death and the reason the family is suing the Department of Corrections.
“I’m just angry,” Stroud said. “We shouldn’t be in this place.”
Lawyers said for a week, Rogers lay on his cell floor in a fetal position unable to move or even speak. The day before he died, the lawsuit notes he even laid in a pool of his own vomit.
In the State Law Enforcement Division report, it shows staff noticed his declining health but didn’t do anything.
“My son laid on the floor and just died,” Stroud said. “These people walked right by him.”
Rogers died from septic shock from a kidney infection. Although, SCDC policy, according to the website, is for staff to get help within four minutes for a medical emergency.
“There really needs to be a total attitude adjustment within the Department of Corrections as far as the treatment of mentally- ill inmates,” Price said. “That’s where it’s got to start.”
The lawyers hope the lawsuit will spark change to start holding people accountable. They also want state lawmakers to get involved and provide more funding for inmates who are mentally-ill.
A South Carolina Department of Corrections representative told 7 News that they could not comment on pending litigation.