A new report shows South Carolina’s prisons agency attempted to consolidate more violent inmates into Lee Correctional Institution in the months before a melee killed seven inmates Sunday and injured 22 more.
According to The Post and Courier, attorney Ed Bell said the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) transferred known gang members to the Lee facility. Bell represents inmates and their families in an ongoing lawsuit against the agency.
SCDC Director Bryan Stirling, confirmed that about 300 inmates were transferred from McCormick Correctional prison to Lee. He said that it was done in part because Lee was better staffed. But he downplayed the role it could have played in causing Sunday’s violence.
The agency has admitted in the past it is down hundreds of employees, particularly among correctional officers, due to low pay and stressful hours.
SCDC has also struggled to stop inmates from smuggling in contraband cellphones, which allows gangs to have contact with the outside world. During a press conference Monday, Stirling speculated those cell phones allowed inmates in other dorms to realize a fight had broken out, sparking additional violence.