Originally created 07/12/98

Claims of abuse continue



GREENVILLE, S.C. -- More allegations of mistreatment at Greenville County's jail are coming from former inmates who say they were denied medication and suffered serious heart attacks.

The latest round of complaints comes on the heels of a series of problems at the jail that were uncovered after the death of Jamel Radcliff, who died of a crushed chest after a struggle with 10 guards while being booked at the jail Aug. 21.

"I feel they need to get straightened out because these are things they were supposed to have straightened out before," said Hillard Rippy, who now lives in a cramped motel room.

Mr. Rippy, 38, said he was without his high blood pressure medicine for two weeks after he was booked at the jail March 17 on fraudulent check charges.

He was taken to Greenville Memorial Hospital on March 31 on the verge of a heart attack with extremely high blood pressure and chest pains, he said.

Now, he takes four times as much medicine as he did before his jail stay and says he has frequent headaches and tires easily.

"This is after the other things had happened, and they are still doing things in there they shouldn't be doing in not taking care of people. It's awful how they take care of people," Mr. Rippy told The Greenville News for an article published Saturday.

Another former inmate, 62-year-old Haskell Jamison, said he was not given his daily heart medicine for two days after he was booked at the jail June 9 on a charge of violating a domestic-abuse order. He said he was rushed to the hospital during a June 11 heart attack.

Both men say they pleaded with jailers and nurses for their medicine. The men say they are considering suing the county.

Their stories contradict information county officials sent to civil-rights lawyers for the U.S. Justice Department. That agency found mistreatment of county inmates and threatened to seek federal oversight of the facility.

The county told Justice Department lawyers that steps taken last fall to improve conditions included identifying inmates with chronic health problems and dispensing medication immediately.

County Administrator Gerald Seals said he will take further action to ensure medical care is adequate.

"The report that we are giving to the Justice Department is the standards that we are committed to keeping," he said. "We won't compromise on those standards, and the fact that we failed there is unacceptable."

Mr. Seals, however, refused to discuss Mr. Rippy's and Mr. Jamison's cases, saying their medical records are confidential. But, he said, "they could have been served a lot better."

Fletcher Smith, the lawyer who represents Mr. Rippy and Mr. Jamison and is handling the Radcliff family's lawsuit against the county, said the medical problems show the need for more improvements.

"I just don't think the county understands the severity of the problem pointed out to them by the Justice Department," Mr. Smith said. "Greenville County seems like it wants to stonewall this. And I don't think the Justice Department is going to allow itself to be duped into believing Greenville County is providing adequate health care."