After Deadly Riot, Inmate Criticizes Guards' Response

7 dead in the worst US prison violence in 25 years
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 17, 2018 7:15 AM CDT
These photos provided by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows, from top row from left, Corey Scott, Eddie Casey Gaskins, Raymond Angelo Scott and Damonte Rivera; bottom row from left, Michael...   (South Carolina Department of Corrections via AP)
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(Newser) – Corrections officials in South Carolina are blaming a prison riot that left seven prisoners dead on a turf war between gangs over territory, money, and contraband items like cellphones. For seven hours, inmates armed with handmade knives fought each other inside the Lee Correctional Institution, resulting in the worst US prison riot in a quarter-century. Most of the slain were stabbed or slashed; the remainder appeared to have been beaten, Lee County Coroner Larry Logan said. The first fight started in a dorm about 7:15pm Sunday and appeared to be contained before suddenly starting in two other dorms. No prison guards were hurt. Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said they followed protocol by backing out and asking for support. It took several hours to restore order, but once a special SWAT team entered, the inmates gave up peacefully, he said.

One inmate who witnessed the fighting tells the AP (via his illegal phone) that he and other prisoners roamed around freely at the prison in Bishopville during the unrest. Hours after the violence started, no corrections officers or medical personnel attended to the dead or dying, he said. "The COs (corrections officers) never even attempted to render aid, nor quell the disturbance," he said. "They just sat in the control bubble, called the issue in, then sat on their collective asses." The slain were serving anywhere from 10 years to life in prison, and their crimes ranged from murder to trafficking crack cocaine. The youngest was 24 years old; the oldest was 44. The coroner described a chaotic scene upon his arrival, with inmates still fighting. The maximum-security facility in Bishopville houses about 1,500 inmates and 44 guards were there when the first fight started.

(Read more prison riot stories.)

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