Guards Waited Hours to Stop a Prison Riot That Left 7 Inmates Dead

When fights broke out at the Lee Correctional Institution, housing some of South Carolina’s most violent offenders, there were too few officers on hand to restore order swiftly, officials said.

Comments: 43

  1. Let me guess: terrible unhealthy food, severe overcrowding and lack of quality educational/vocational/recreational/therapeutic/addiction programs. See NM 1980 prison riot and all the others on the list of Worst Prison Riots. Do we never learn?

  2. @Tom: I am OK leaving people convicted of 1st degree murder in jail for the entirety of their lives. It's a terrible situation all around but people who are that messed up need to disappear from society. Let's spend more on the legal system as a whole and on the rehabilitation of other offenders. I don't want someone who murders a person I care about getting out at the age of 40 or 50. I suspect that most people would agree.

  3. You’ve watched way too many movies. Very few murderers are serial killers with murder in their souls. Most murderers are opportunity-killers. And lord knows our gun crazy society gives ample opportunity. Having spent much time in civil-war zones I’m here to tell you that the potential for murder is genetic only in the fact that it’s in everyone. I’ve spent time in middle-class homes where over tea and pastries the owners told me why they just had to kill - or turn in for killing - their neighbors. This was in a corner of Europe in the 90’s, not that it really matters one way or the other.

  4. Those numbers bump up in an American maximum security prison.

    On Chicago streets, those numbers, wherever you got them, don't hold up. Killing gets easier after the first time.

  5. 17 dead - That'll teach em. Dangerous job, I agree, but 17 shot dead?

  6. Mr. Allen, read the article again. It doesn't say 17 shot dead. It says 7 killed, and the cause of death is not mentioned.

  7. The article does not say 17 shot dead. It doesn't specify how many were killed or injured by other inmates, as opposed to by the guards when they retook control. Wait for more information.

  8. Read the article again.

  9. This story needs more context about the state of imprisonment in South Carolina. The article needs more details as to who was fighting and why.

  10. Diet? -- Investigate if this prison serves up malnourishment? Feeding the prisoners mostly white bread and hard boiled eggs?
    Mental health support?

  11. Why in the world do prisoners deserve education and exercise? That is what's wrong with liberal America!

  12. Perhaps the U.S. should re-think locking up non-violent drug offenders and other low-level offenders and instead offer services that are proven to be effective and save taxpayers billions thereby allowing state and federal prisons to focus on violent and other felony offenders. It's highly possible the deadly South Carolina riot could have been averted with an increase of resources that are now dedicated to more than a half million inmates behind bars for drugs.

  13. "which houses some of the state’s most violent and longest-serving offenders."

    While in agreement with your overall thought, I am not sure it applies here. It is doubtful that the states toughest and most notorious prison would be used to house low level, non violent, drug uses who were sentenced to short terms.

    This story could have used a lot more detail.

  14. Your comment makes total sense. I should have been more clear. I meant taking resources from the facilities that would cut loose the low-level criminals and apply it where needed.

  15. Last week, the Times ran a hit piece on private prisons so it’s not surprising that they withheld the information that this prison, like Rikers Island and Attica, is government run.

  16. “Lee Correctional Institution, which opened in 1993, houses about 1,500 male inmates.”
    A prison houses no one but inmates. It’s ok to say “1,500 men” or even “incarcerated men” if you feel the need for specificity or rhythm.
    The adjective “male” lends a pseudoscientific veneer and reinforces stereotypes that prisoners are somehow less than human. It should be used very carefully when referring to incarcerated men. They don’t need to be dehumanized more than they already are.

  17. What? We can't call inmates inmates? Or is the problem calling them male as opposed to men? We have to call them incarcerated? What about calling them prisoners? That's semantics and opaque semantics at that

  18. I have no problem with this. Dehumanized? What did they do to their victim(s)? Live right & maybe this won't happen to you. My tears are for victims only.

  19. I thought describing all the inmates as "male" indicated that there no females there. No more, no less. Why is a specific word that refers to gender suddenly a "pseudoscientific veneer....for stereotypes?" This is pc thinking run amok!

  20. This is a failure of the state to protect the safety and security of the prisoners. The governor should resign. The warden should resign. The officers on duty should resign. If prisons are not safe enough to keep things like this from happening then they need to figure something else out. Our justice system makes mistakes, which are unacceptable, where innocent people are locked up for crimes they did not commit. What if one of those people that were killed were innocent? What a disgusting injustice to our country.

  21. As research has long demonstrated, prison riots are not caused by the presence of individuals convicted of violent crimes. They are caused by organizational features of the prison that are almost entirely governed by (poor) managerial decisions. A riot carrying a death toll of this size demands investigative reporting.

  22. Rape and murder. How is it that the "justice system" does so little to prevent these offences in facilities wherein they are in complete and total control? I for one would like to know the stories of these seven men whose government bestowed on them inadvertant death sentences. Can the families sue? I sure hope so. Money is the only thing some people understand.

  23. Is this place a for profit operation?

  24. No. It's run by the government.

  25. When I was a little boy when I looked out my bedroom window I looked over the National Cemetery at the Elmira "Reformatory". In the 50's and early 60's around the county you would see the inmates out in the fields working on 20 acres of beans or handling their livestock. The guards rode herd on them. They ate real food, and they slept nights. Some who earned the privilege were allowed to attend school, either high or college. That all changed in the Get Tough attitude toward crime. 50 years later we are still there and it is easy to get elected being tough on crime. Witness Willie Horton! I think the majority could care less about this incident. It is the "they got what they deserved" attitude. As a people we don't invest wisely. We certainly aren't going to invest in "them." So, we and them will continue to pay the price, just in different ways.

  26. How hard did the prison guards try to stop the riot? Don't they have riot equipment and tear gas that would quell the fighting? What about training? In such a dangerous prison, it would seem they were completely unprepared to effectively intervene for around eight hours. This case should be investigated. The prison personnel did not respond professionally. The question is why?

  27. America's prison system is antiquated, and in need of drastic reform. If this riot disturbs you, vote in November for candidates who support prison/judicial reform. VOTE AMERICA!!

  28. No maximum security prison should have a dormitory. Period. You cannot make them safe.

  29. Six of the seven killed were black. South Carolina imprisons around 20,000 people in state facilities at last count (more in city jails of course--double, if US national statistics are a guide). Sixty-one percent of the SC state prison population is black in a state with an overall black population of 27.5%. Black prisoners are given longer average sentences as well in this first state of the slaveholder rebellion of 1861–66.

  30. What is your point? Prisons are those that commit crimes no matter what race.

  31. Why aren't prisons designed to uplift those who have committed crimes, rather than drive them to this?

  32. Sounds like a story straight out of Criminal Minds. Wow.

  33. A maximum security prison where inmates can carry shives and murder other inmates. Impressive. And, it only took this maximum security prison nearly 8 hours to get the rioting under control.

    Time for a new warden and a review of security practices.

  34. And how would you suggest they control it faster, start shooting all the fighting inmates?

  35. I thought incidents like this only happened at for-profit prisons, but this one is a government run institution.

  36. I guess it can happen in any prison and that's why emergency teams are form to help in these situations.

  37. cruel and unusual punishment

  38. Prisons have their own gang hierarchy along with an intricate cultural and economic substructure operating within the bureaucratic institution. The gangs are not based on the streets but are ethnic in their origins. They are not to be trifled with, fully armed, after a fashion, with a leadership hierarchy and military style organization, they maintain survival in the prison. That broke down in South Carolina and the Warden had to wait for back up as the gang leaders could not come to a consensus. This has nothing to do with privatization or governmental organization ownership theory. It’s a delicate balance that requires a working knowledge of all that’s involved.

  39. Govenor McMaster: "It's not a surprise when we have violent events take place inside prison." I guess that's why you have 2 guards on duty for 250 inmates in a "maximum security" prison. Doesn't sound too secure to me.

  40. when you sentence someone to life plus 90 years in prison,you give them no incentive to do their time with any sense
    of anything to lose.if someone must be
    separated from society,you need to make
    the proper arrangements for security and
    only if necessary, segregation. we have way too many people in jail serving way
    too much time.I am not naive enough to
    think dangerous criminals should be on
    the streets,but there must be some perspective on the part of ambitious
    prosecutors when it comes to putting
    people in jail for inordinate amounts
    of time.

  41. Passed through an area housing a correction center in NorthEast of US.The whole area , atmosphere was scary which I think is an understatement. I can't believe that in a first world country u can have such desolate such an isolated place for prisoners.Prisoners have no alternative but people working there, must be made of steely nerves.Imagine anyone driving through that area by car has a breakdown and at the same time some inmates escaped oops the thought is terrifying.

  42. Let's just face it, prisons have now become money making profit centers owned and controlled by money making despots, especially in the South, so all dialogue to rehabilitate inmates is not even close to getting on the real agenda. That real agenda being, how do we keep all these cells filled to the maximum?

    Will the people of the states where this is done ever wise up? probably not as they consider all talk that is counter to how they want to do it (lock 'em up and throw away the key) to be more interference with their states rights. More yankee meddling.