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Death Row Transfers Part Of Major SC Prison Shakeup

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Fearing a federal takeover of South Carolina’s prison system, officials with the scandal-ravaged S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC) are working frantically to restore order at several beleaguered institutions.

Yesterday, it was reported that SCDC transferred 37 death row inmates from Lieber Correctional Institution in Ridgeville, S.C. to Kirkland Correctional Institution in Columbia, S.C.  According to reporter Andrew Knapp of The (Charleston, S.C.) Post and Courier, this transfer was effectuated so that prison officials “could free up eight officers to bolster security elsewhere at Lieber.”

Both Lieber and Kirkland are “level three” facilities – which is the Palmetto State’s equivalent of maximum security prisons.  Of course “security” at Lieber was badly exposed back in July after the escape of high-profile inmate Jimmy Causey revealed systemic breakdowns in protocol at the prison.  Exclusive reporting by this website (and others) in the aftermath of the July jailbreak revealed a culture of chaos within the Palmetto State’s prison system – “a near-total loss of operational control,” as we put it.

We’ve called on S.C. governor Henry McMaster to replace embattled prisons czar Bryan Stirling as a result of these issues, but so far he has declined to do so.  Stirling is a former chief of staff to McMaster’s predecessor, Nikki Haley.  He was appointed to the prisons post by Haley in September of 2013.

There have been numerous SCDC scandals since Stirling’s appointment – including efforts to cover up prison riotssex scandalsmurders and serious sentencing errors.

According to our sources, the death row inmate transfer is one of several moves being made by embattled prison officials in an effort to address persistent issues within the system.

“SCDC has been put on notice that what is going on there is unacceptable,” one source familiar with the situation said. “More than likely they have been given an ultimatum – fix the prison or we (the federal government) will.”

Rumors of a possible federal takeover of certain SCDC institutions was first reported by this website over the weekend.

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Other moves being made?

Prison officials are reportedly working to “identify and break up the gang networks within Lieber,” which could result in the transfer of additional inmates “to facilities all over the state.”

That certainly seems to be a belated acknowledgement of the extent to which criminals have been able to operate with impunity while incarcerated at Palmetto State prisons.

“One of the biggest problems with SCDC is the agency leadership and executive level institutional staff,” one critic of the agency told us.  “These people have no insight regarding the actual inmate population nor do they understand the social structure among the population.”

We’re also told inmates at Lieber have “essentially (been) on lockdown since the Causey escape” and that prison guards have “had to reform the way they allow inmates out of their cells.”

That may be keeping violence in check (for now), but it’s not a viable long-term solution.

“There needs to be a different mindset other than the ‘lock em up and throw away the key’ attitude,” our critic told us.  “The majority of the entire population are not career criminals.  We often forget that these are normal men and women who made mistakes and bad decisions or choices.  The punishment is separation from society and now we as a society have to do more to ensure our ever growing prison system budget is being used the right way.”

That’s true …

“Public awareness is essential to an orderly prison system,” our critic added.  “Most South Carolina taxpayers are in the dark concerning the prison system and what actually goes on inside.  The public must know the truth and not just accept whatever we are told.  We spend almost half a BILLION dollars in state taxes to operate this system, ask yourself if this money is being utilized properly!”

That’s accurate.  According to the latest budget data, SCDC is receiving $482.3 million in the current state budget (which began on July 1).  That’s an increase of 7.1 percent over a two-year span.

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