Spartanburg Co. officials deny accusations in ACLU jail visitati - FOX Carolina 21

Spartanburg Co. officials deny accusations in ACLU jail visitation lawsuit

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(Source: Associated Press) (Source: Associated Press)

The American Civil Liberties Union Foundation and ACLU of South Carolina have filed a lawsuit against officials in Spartanburg County, claiming their policy on inmate visits at Spartanburg County Detention Center is unconstitutional.

According to the lawsuit which was filed on May 2, ACLU members have been looking into violations of some inmates' constitutional rights and have tried to meet with the inmates for in-person interviews.

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The ACLU claims Sheriff Chuck Wright and jail director Allen Freeman refused to allow ACLU attorneys to visit inmates in January 2017. The attorneys said when they tried to set up appointments to meet with incarcerated individuals, Freeman responded and said only visits are allowed with an attorney already representing an inmate in criminal, civil or family court proceedings.

According to the ACLU, limiting visits to lawyers with a preexisting client relationship is in violation of rights protected in the U.S. Constitution.

The lawsuit seeks an injunction to stop the Spartanburg County Detention Center for enforcing this policy, a judgment declaring their practices in violation of the First Amendment and payment for legal fees.

The Spartanburg County Sheriff's Office declined to comment and said they never issue statements on pending litigation.

In an answer to the complained filed May 30, an attorney for Wright, Freeman and Spartanburg County said the defendants deny all allegations brought forth by the ACLU.

In the document, it states for a lawyer to meet face-to-face with an inmate, the lawyer must have an existing attorney-client relationship or be placed on the inmate's visitation list.

"Defendants are more than willing to allow [ACLU] representatives to meet with inmates once the inmate has placed those individuals on their visitation list or the attorney is listed as a particular inmate's attorney of record," the response states.

In the response, the attorney states at all times referenced by the ACLU in their lawsuit, Wright and Freeman were "engaged in the performance of their official duties as employees of the Spartanburg County Sheriff's Department" and never violated clearly established constitutional rights.

A jury trial has been requested by jail officials in the case.

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