South Carolina Prison Fights Leave 7 Dead and 17 Injured

BREAKING: Authorities responding to situation at Lee Correctional Institution

Razor wire protects the perimeter of the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, S.C., where seven inmates are dead and 17 others injured after hours of fighting that broke out Sunday inside the maximum-security prison.

It was the most inmates slain in a single riot in the U.S. since nine prisoners and a guard died in 1993 at the Southern Ohio Correctional Facility, said Steve Martin, a consultant who helps the federal government monitor prison systems. He added a preliminary investigation had found that it was "gangs fighting over territory".

Officials say most of the dead were stabbed or slashed with shanks.

The state has about 5,000 prison employees in 22 institutions, but "security staff numbers continue to lag behind the authorized strength", the department's fiscal 2017 Accountability Report said, without giving numbers. "They just sat in the control bubble, called the issue in, then sat on their collective asses".

The maximum-security facility in Bishopville, 55 miles east of Columbia, houses about 1,500 inmates, some of South Carolina's most violent and longest-serving offenders. In fact, three weeks ago, inmates held a guard hostage for 90 minutes after overpowering him and taking control of a portion of one of the dormitories.

The deaths at Lee are the most in any SC prison in recent years. Nikki Haley in 2013 to lead the state prison agency.

However, autopsies will determine the exact causes of death for all seven inmates who died during the riot. There is no word on whether this "mass casualty incident" is related in any way to the previous recent unrest at the prison. About one-quarter of the entire population in correctional facilities have a serious mental illness, such as schizophrenia, major depression and bipolar disorder, a rate which is less than 4 percent in the general population.


"That prison has always seemed to be a problem".

Probably the most famous was the 1971 rebellion at New York's Attica prison. Ultimately, they released the guard with no injuries.

Corrections Department Director Bryan Stirling said of the prisoners at the press conference: "These folks are fighting over real money and real territory while they're incarcerated". Mentally ill inmates were also left naked in solitary confinement for extended periods of time, sometimes sitting with their own feces and urine for days.

Deadly prison riots have been relatively rare in the United States, despite some notable exceptions. More than four decades later, conditions are even more deplorable. All were in prison for violent crimes, ranging from domestic violence to murder. "Rioting like this is a symptom our criminal justice system is broken and needs reform now", he said.

"Basically, American prisons suffer from overcrowding".

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