Attorney: 4 inmate deaths show need for better mental care

From left to right: Jason Kelley, John King, Jimmy Ham, William Scruggs (South Carolina Department of Corrections)

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) – An attorney for the family of one of four convicts strangled in a prison cell says the killings cast a “bright light on just how bad it is to be a mentally ill inmate” in South Carolina.

Carter Elliott told The Associated Press the killings represent a “tremendous step back” after the state’s prison agency agreed last year to improve treatment of mentally ill inmates. That settlement required reforms over several years.

Elliott is representing the family of Jimmy Ham, who was projected for release in November after serving time for a violent assault conviction.

According to arrest warrants, two convicted murderers separately lured Ham and three others into a Kirkland Correctional cell last Friday and strangled them. All six were housed in the same dorm.

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