Mother’s Lawsuit Claims South Carolina Guards Left Son to Die in Prison Yard

Allen Capers, 32, died on December 31, 2017, at the Turbeville Correctional Institution in South Carolina after receiving multiple stab wounds to the head, neck stomach, and hand. Renegade inmates had overpowered a guard, taken the master keys, attacked Capers as well as at least eight other inmates. They were using makeshift shanks, fire extinguishers, parts of chairs, a broken piece of metal, and mattresses as weapons in the assaults.

His mother, Debra Capers Dickson, filed a lawsuit claiming that the South Carolina Department of Corrections left Capers in the prison yard to die. By their negligence in providing adequate security and medical care, the SCDC contributed to the death of Allen Capers, according to the lawsuit.

Background: Prison Violence

The rash of prison violence has been widely reported and investigated. With severe understaffing, attempts to stem and prevent the violence and mounting homicide rate has been unsuccessful. The events on New Year’s Eve 2017 were part of just another outbreak of prison. As Justin Bamberg, the state representative and the attorney representing the family, says, “We’re talking about years, years of critical neglect from the state of South Carolina, years of problems with staffing, years of problems with facilities.”

Case Study for Prison Reform

A surveillance video depicts the prison guards dragging Capers out into the prison yard, and walking up to him, but not providing any medical intervention or assistance. While a statement from the SCDC claims that the actions of the guards are under investigation, Bamberg is pushing to make this a case study in the prison reform movement. He is calling for a capital-improvement bond to fix safety and security issues at the SCDC, which would have likely protected Capers.

The promise of greater security, combined with compensatory provisions, could also fix the understaffing issue. The rash of violence in the prison system has not only affected the lives of the inmates, but the guards are in danger as well. So, prison reform means improving the environment and working conditions for both inmates and guards. True improvement must take both sides of the cell-block door into consideration. It should not be a death sentence to serve out time in prison, according to Debra Capers.