A massive overnight riot at a maximum-security prison in South Carolina left at least seven inmates dead as guards scrambled for hours to restore order, authorities said Monday. It is the deadliest incident at a South Carolina prison for at least several years, according to the Associated Press.
A clash among inmates at the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville erupted around 7:15 p.m. Sunday and spread across three housing units, with “multiple inmate-on-inmate altercations,” the state’s Corrections Department said. It took until about 3 a.m. Monday until the violence ended. At least 17 inmates were injured, although no prison staff or law enforcement were harmed.
The incident that set off the riots is unknown. None of the dead or injured inmates has been identified.
The Lee Correctional Institution is home to some of the most violent and longest-serving inmates in South Carolina, and a former warden recently called it the most dangerous prison in the state. It has already seen chaos this year: Inmates in March held a guard hostage and took control of a dorm for nearly 90 minutes, and in February one inmate stabbed another to death, according to USA Today. One inmate died in a fight last July, and inmates have previously taken over parts of the prison and held hostages in 2012 and 2013.
The prison, which is about 50 miles east of the state capital Columbia, opened in 1993 and houses about 1,600 inmates.