The rights guaranteed to the accused, defendants, offenders and prisoners are fundamental political rights that protect all Americans from governmental abuse of power. These rights include the guarantee against unreasonable search and seizure, the right to reasonable bail, the right to due process of law and the right to be free from cruel and unusual punishment. They are indispensable to a free society.

The ACLU of South Carolina works to ensure that our state's prisons, jails, and other places of detention comply with the Constitution, state law, and international human rights principles. We are committed to ending the policies that have given the United States the highest incarceration rate in the world.

January 2014: ACLU report on Life Without Parole

"A Living Death: Life Without Parole for Nonviolent Offenses" features key statistics about these prisoners, an analysis of the laws that produced their sentences, and case studies of 110 men and women serving these sentences. Of the 3,278 prisoners, 79 percent were convicted of nonviolent, drug-related crimes such as possession or distribution, and 20 percent of nonviolent property crimes like theft.

July 2013: SC ends segregating HIV-positive prisoners

“Ending a long out-dated policy that stigmatized human beings and ignored modern medical information is a tremendous victory for human rights,” said Susan K. Dunn, legal director of the ACLU of South Carolina. “While the segregation of HIV-positive prisoners has long been an unnecessary and ineffective tool for preventing the transmission of HIV, it has had the profound effect of humiliating and isolating prisoners living with the disease.”

ACLU Press Release

Sentenced to Stigma

Gideon v. Wainright - 50 Years Later

"You have the right to remain silent. You have the right to an attorney...If you cannot afford one, one will be provided for you at no cost to you..."

We all know this refrain, echoed time and time again by cops on TV and cops on our neighborhood streets. But is this promise actually fulfilled for those who cannot afford to hire a lawyer?

Until Gideon v. Wainwright guaranteed legal representation regardless of your ability to pay, dire poverty could unfairly stack the scales of justice against a poor person charged with a felony.

On March 18, 2013, as the nation celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s landmark right-to-counsel decision,Gideon v. Wainwright, the ACLU of South Carolina sent letters to all magistrate and municipal courts in South Carolina calling for effective legal representation for all criminal defendants who cannot afford to hire a private attorney.

ACLU of South Carolina Press Release (March 18, 2013)

Letter to the Magistrate and Municipal Courts (pdf)

Is an indigent parent facing imprisonment for failure to pay child support entitled to appointed counsel?

Turner v. Rogers: A Decision from the Supreme Court of the United States