BAMBERG COUNTY, S.C. (WJBF) —- Allegations of negligence against Bamberg County officials after the death of an inmate with mental illness. In 2022, Alan Thibodeaux disappeared from Virginia. He later faced a burglary charge here in Bamberg County. A judge ordered a mental evaluation. He was supposed to be sent to a state psychiatric hospital, but that never happened.
“There’s a lot to take in. But if you look at that one piece released in the video, it is disturbing and traumatic,” said Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice, University of South Carolina Dr. Hayden Smith.
The family of 51-year-old Alan Thibodeau is suing Bamberg County and a nurse following his death. Court filings state his health rapidly declined in jail due to schizophrenia and bipolar disorder while at the Bamberg County Detention Center last year. “He would fall under a range of standards in terms of the way the correctional staff monitored him, and the mental health staff and the medical staff responded to his risks and his needs,” he shared.
Video obtained by NewsChannel 6 from the attorneys working on the case sheds light on the events. It appears to show the alleged actions during Mr. Thibodeau’s custody. “It looks like a combination of physical health, mental health, staff seemed a little confused about what to do, and unfortunate and terrible outcome for everyone involved,” added Dr. Smith.
What was shown on tape appears to match what documents list–he was neglected and not protected, leading to malnutrition, dehydration, and organ failure. The family alleges civil rights violations were at play. “You first have to identify the person’s status and then compare it to the standards and the acceptable practices,” he said.
Professor Dr. Hayden Smith, a criminology expert, shared that ensuring individuals’ well-being in correctional settings faces challenges due to a national staffing crisis. “When you have people arrive at a jail or a prison, they have a constellation of risks and needs. So, what comes in the front door is often very complex and challenging and can be problematic when you don’t have well-trained staff and adequate numbers of staff in place,” he said.
Meanwhile, Thibodeau’s family is asking for a jury trial and various forms of damages. The family is also suing Southern Health Partners for medical malpractice. The Aiken County Jail uses that same company for medical care.