An inmate was found dead hanging from a sheet Saturday morning in a South Carolina jail with a severe overcrowding problem.
Michael Morris, 34, was found around 2:10 a.m. local time Saturday in a bathroom of the Pickens County Detention Center, sheriff's deputy Creed Hashe said in a statement to Fusion. The county coroner found the death to be suicide, The Associated Press confirmed.
Morris was being held by himself in an arraignment room that was used as a makeshift cell. The jail, which was built to hold 93 inmates, was holding 208 inmates on the day he died. "We're having to be pretty creative in where we're putting people," Hashe told the Greenville News, which first reported the death.
Four detention officers were on duty at the time of his death. Sheriff Rick Clark has requested the state Law Enforcement Division to conduct an investigation, which is standard procedure.
Overcrowding has been a problem at the jail for more than a year, and it’s typical for it to hold more than 200 inmates at any time. “We have mats on the floor, just anywhere we can squeeze in somebody," Clark told the Greenville News in June 2014.
The National Institute of Corrections, a division of the U.S. Justice Department, conducted an analysis of the overcrowding problem in November and concluded that a violent incident was “an event waiting to happen.”
One of the reasons for the jail’s overcrowding is the rising average length of stay: people were held on average for 10 days in 2004; last year, it was 24.5 days, according to the report. "The building was built in 1974," Hashe told me. "It's a growth issue."
More than 960 people died while being held in local jails in 2013, the latest year with available data, according to a report last month from the federal Bureau of Justice Statistics. More than three fourths of those people died like Morris, without being convicted of a crime.
Casey Tolan is a National News Reporter for Fusion based in New York City.