'Brutality': Deadly Fight in South Carolina Prison Highlights US Prison Failings

Bessie Dean
April 17, 2018

Seven prisoners have been killed and at least 17 others injured in a riot at a maximum security prison in the USA state of SC, officials say.

The Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina, about 40 miles (64 km) northeast of the state capital Columbia, was secured at 2:55 a.m. ET (0655 GMT), hours after the incident which began around 7:15 p.m. ET (2315 GMT) on Sunday night, the department said. Two officers were stabbed there in 2015.

It was the deadliest US prison riot since 1993, when nine inmates and one corrections officer died at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility in Lucasville, said Steve Martin, a longtime prisons expert and now the federal monitor for the consent decree involving New York City's Rikers Island jail complex.

The South Carolina Department of Corrections tweeted that the deaths happened in multiple inmate-on-inmate fights in three housing units.

The inmate who spoke to AP said that many cell door locks were already broken before the riot and that he and other prisoners roamed around freely.

Stirling said officials believe the riot was "all about territory, all about contraband" at the prison, which houses some of the state's worst and longest-serving offenders.

"We are not going to just send one or two officers in there", Stirling said.

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"These folks are fighting over real money and real territory while they are incarcerated".

"We know that prisons are places where people who have misbehaved on the outside go for rehabilitation, and also to take them from the general population", he said.

All prison staff and law enforcement were safe and accounted for the, Corrections Department said on Twitter. One inmate killed another in February.

The injured inmates required medical attention outside the prison, which made it more hard for authorities to restore order, Stirling said.

"The [corrections officers] never even attempted to render aid, nor quell the disturbance", he said.

Gov. Henry McMaster said these types of incidents are avoided, or kept to a minimum, by rules and regulations, protocol and training.

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