As we face the COVID-19 crisis together in South Carolina and across the United States, it is essential that all government officials follow public health experts' recommendations to help ensure a response plan that protects the health, safety, and civil liberties of all. Any response to this pandemic should be grounded in science and public health, not politics or xenophobia.

The ACLU of South Carolina is watching closely to make sure that the government's response is scientifically justified and no more intrusive on civil liberties than absolutely necessary.

General Guidelines:
On March 6, we sent a letter urging state and local leaders across South Carolina to:

  • Ensure the protection of incarcerated people who are housed in close quarters, often in poor health and therefore highly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses;
  • Ensure that all people have access to free/affordable testing and treatment, including those who do not have health insurance;
  • Dismantle all barriers to testing and treatment by delcaring health care facilities “immigration enforcement-free zones;”
  • Work with employers to ensure that workers are supported in voluntarily staying home when sick;
  • Ensure transparency and accuracy of shared information and ground all public statements in science; and
  • Encourage voluntary compliance with isolation measures.

Mass Incarceration/Prison Conditions:
People involved in the criminal justice system face heightened risk of COVID-19 infection. From policing, prosecution and pretrial hearings, to sentencing, confinement, and release, every aspect of the system must come under intense scrutiny for how it responds to this national public health crisis. 

On March 10, we issued a series of recommendations urging South Carolina prison and jail officials to immediately develop proactive plans grounded in public health for the prevention and management of COVID-19 in their facilities. Having appropriate, evidence-based plans in place can help prevent an outbreak and minimize its impact if one does occur. Not having one may cost lives.

On March 18, we sent a second letter, this time to more than 400 South Carolina criminal justice officials recommending that they heed public health experts’ advice and immediately release individuals in detention who are identified by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as vulnerable, as well as people currently in pretrial detention, to prevent a public health crisis. By following the recommendations outlined in our letter, state and local officials can create a culture in which transparency, safety, and the health of all people is the paramount concern. 

On March 25, we launched covid19@aclusc.org, an email hotline designated to receive information about violations inside South Carolina correctional facilities related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Anyone with information about abuses in South Carolina prisons, jails, and detention centers should email the hotline. All messages will be reviewed by our staff members to determine trends, systemic problems and shortfalls, and, when possible, to provide advocacy and assistance in emergency situations. So that we can respond effectively and efficiently, please include the following information in your message: 

  • Your name
  • Your contact information including phone number
  • A brief description of your concern

The South Carolina Department of Corrections issued this plan for COVID-19 preparedness and maintenance. 

South Carolina Supreme Court Chief Justice Beatty issued this list of directives to SC Magistrates, Municipal Judges and Summary Court Staff.  

Immigration:
We must ensure that people are not deterred from seeking care. ICE has issued a public statement stating that accessing care and resources will not expose individuals to, or increase the risk of, immigration enforcement.