Prisoners armed themselves with homemade knives during the early morning hours Monday and rioted for more than seven hours inside the Lee Correctional Institution located in Columbia, South Carolina. The riot left 17 inmates seriously injured and seven inmates dead. One of the inmates at Lee reported to the Associated Press that there were bodies “literally stacked on top of each other.” The madness and violence raged on for over seven hours as prisoners were uninterrupted until 3 a. m. Monday morning.

Prison officials did not immediately disclose what specifically sparked the violence at Lee Correctional Institution, which houses the most violent and longest-serving prisoners in South Carolina. No one prison guard was injured in the riot.

Although cell phones are strictly prohibited in all correctional facilities, the Associated Press reported that one inmate who saw the riot exchanged messages and reported the details of what he saw on the condition that his identity remains hidden and protected due to his fear of reprisal from the other inmates. The reporting prisoner did not say what exactly started the riot but he did say that a majority of the inmates at Lee are gang affiliated and he witnessed several members of a gang taunt a rival gang member that had been severely injured.

“I just saw three dead on the sidewalk outside of my unit. One guy is still alive and breathing, but just barely,” the inmate told the Associated Press. 

This is not the first time Lee Correctional has seen violence. In March, a prison guard was held hostage for 90 minutes and another inmate was killed in February. The inmate that spoke with the Associated Press reported that many of the cell doors were broken before the riot and that he and other prisoners roamed around as they pleased, freely. Hours after the violence had started, not one correctional officer or member of the medical personnel made any attempt to attend to any of the wounded or dying.

According to the Associated Press the inmate reported,

“It’s been over two hours, but no COs (corrections officers) have responded to this unit, and no medical personnel have attempted to render any kind of aid,” he wrote. “The COs never even attempted to render aid, nor quell the disturbance. They just sat in the control bubble, called the issue in, then sat on their collective asses.”


Most of the injured inmates seemed to have been severely beaten while those that lost their lives were stabbed and slashed with homemade knives according to the Lee County Coroner Larry Logan. The injured inmates required medical attention outside the prison, which is 40 miles east of Columbia. The South Carolina Department of Corrections Tweeted that the deaths happened in multiple inmate-on-inmate fights happening in three different housing units that began around 7:15 p.m. on Sunday.

Lee County coroner said that when he arrived it was a highly chaotic scene with fighting everywhere. Coroner Logan stated that Lee Correctional, like so many other South Carolina prisons,  is struggling to find enough workers, but he does not believe anything could be done once thing got that far out of control.

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