Prison in­mates’ knife fight leaves 7 dead in S. Carolina

The Columbus Dispatch - - Front Page - By Meg Kinnard

COLUMBIA, S.C. — In­mates with home­made knives fought each other for about seven hours over ter­ri­tory and money, leav­ing seven of them dead in the worst U.S. prison riot since nine pris­on­ers and a guard died in the South­ern Ohio Cor­rec­tional Fa­cil­ity near Lu­casville in 1993, of­fi­cials said Mon­day.

An in­mate who wit­nessed the vi­o­lence told The As­so­ci­ated Press that bodies were “lit­er­ally stacked on top of each other.”

At least 17 pris­on­ers were se­ri­ously in­jured at Lee Cor­rec­tional In­sti­tu­tion, South Carolina pris­ons chief Bryan Stir­ling said. The first fight started in a dorm about 7:15 p.m. Sun­day and ap­peared to be con­tained be­fore fights broke out in two other dorms. Cell­phones helped stir up the trou­ble, and state of­fi­cials urged the fed­eral gov­ern­ment to change a law and al­low them to block the sig­nals from pris­on­ers’ phones.

“These folks are fight­ing over real money and real ter­ri­tory while they’re in­car­cer­ated,” Stir­ling said at a news con­fer­ence.

No prison guards were hurt. 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.

The pris­oner who saw the riot ex­changed mes­sages with AP on the con­di­tion of anonymity be­cause he is not al­lowed to have a cell­phone and fears ret­ri­bu­tion from other in­mates. He said he saw sev­eral at­tack­ers taunt a ri­val gang mem­ber who was badly in­jured.

He said that many cell-door locks were al­ready bro­ken be­fore the riot and that he and other pris­on­ers roamed freely in the prison in Bishopville, 40 miles east of Columbia. Hours af­ter the vi­o­lence started, no cor­rec­tional 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 riot was the lat­est vi­o­lence in the South Carolina prison sys­tem, where at least 13 other in­mates have been killed by fel­low pris­on­ers since the start of 2017.

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