SC legislators say multiple criminal justice reform bills are in the works

South Carolina News

CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – On Monday, Ninth Circuit Solicitor Scarlett Wilson announced that her office would not bring charges against the deputies involved in the death of Jamal Sutherland, a mentally ill man who died during a cell extraction at the Al Cannon Detention Center.

Legislators across the state say while they are disappointed with the solicitor’s decision, they were prepared for it. They’ve been working to get legislation passed to prevent situations like Sutherland’s in the future.

State Rep. JA Moore says that Wilson “did not have the tools in her tool kit to charge officers involved in murdering Jamal because of the system that was designed to criminalize mental health patients.”

He says that he “filed the Justice for Jamal Act that deals specifically with mental health and excessive force, we’ve also filed a number of police conduct bills.”

Other bills created since the death of Jamal Sutherland include restrictions on taser usage. Rep. Moore says that as an individual who finds police to be a vital aspect of communities, he hopes the legislation not only saves lives, but strengthens police in a positive manner through training and accountability. 

Accountability is also a priority in SC House Minority Leader Todd J. Rutherford’s bill on excessive use of force. Rep. Rutherford says his bill would have addressed the case of Jamal Sutherland directly so that charges could have been brought. 

He says the solicitor had no choice with the current statute as, “jail guards were authorized to use force, but they exceeded that force, and they, unfortunately, took his life. That is what I believe this statute would address.”

Both representatives agree that more needs to be done to fix the system and while there is not a shortage of bills, a change in momentum and bipartisanship will be needed next session. 

I don’t think it’s a question of how many more bills we can file, the question becomes, do we have the courage, and are we serious about making our world, our community, and more importantly our state more just. 

Rep. JA Moore, District 15 (D) 

Representative Moore says when it comes to charging the officers involved in the death of Jamal Sutherland, there is still hope for the South Carolina Attorney General to bring forth charges as well as the Department of Justice.

For more on Rep. Rutherford’s bill, click here.

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