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McCormick Correctional Institution: Inside The Violence

Multiple incidents rock maximum security facility …

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For the third time in a week, violence rocked McCormick Correctional Institution in McCormick, South Carolina on Wednesday.

A maximum security South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC) facility, McCormick is one of six “high-security institutions designed primarily to house violent offenders with longer sentences, and inmates who exhibit behavioral problems,” according to the SCDC website.

To read our report on the drama that unfolded at the prison yesterday, CLICK HERE.

At 9:00 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, SCDC officials indicated they had “secured” the wing of the prison where the riot took place.

What happened to make it “unsecured?”

As we noted in our original report, the uprising that took place on Wednesday was the latest in a recent string of riots/ protests at the prison.  Just last week an inmate-on-inmate incident at McCormick led to a brawl resulting in “numerous injuries.”  News of that brawl was first reported by this news site.  In fact according to our sources, last week’s violence was far worse than the headline-grabbing incident that took place this week.

Now we are receiving information that there have been at least four major incidents at McCormick within the last week – furthering the narrative that prisons in the Palmetto State are suffering from a near-total loss of operational control.

“There were three disturbances in the last week outside the brawl … which you could classify as prisoners taking over the prison,” a source inside McCormick told us.  “First disturbance was brawl gang fight that got so large that officers lost control and resulted in hundreds of prisoners running around (in the) yard in large groups.”

Officers abandoned the yard and had to wait approximately two hours before reentering the area, we’re told.

According to our sources, this violence was strictly “prisoner on prisoner.”  No officers were targeted or hurt in the melee.

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(Via: iStock)

Last Saturday, September 30, another incident took place.  According to multiple sources inside the prison, a water main broke at the facility leaving inmates with no running water for drinking or showering.

“It was at this time officers attempted to force prisoners back in (their) cell(s) and approximately 100 prisoners in Dorm 4 refused to go back,” one source told us.

A negotiating team was sent from SCDC headquarters in Columbia, S.C. to attempt a peaceful solution to the crisis, but after several hours of unsuccessful attempts to broker a resolution an armed rapid response team was dispatched from Columbia to force prisoners back inside their dormitories.

Ultimately, Dorm 4 prisoners were returned to their cells at around 3:00 a.m. EDT on Sunday, October 1.  The next day, similar issues arose with prisoners complaining about a lack of water “but McCormick staff was able to handle it and they returned to (their) cells.”

On Wednesday, though, things boiled over again.

This time, prisoners in the facility’s most secure dorm – the restricted housing unit (RHU) – rebelled, reportedly angry over their ongoing lack of access to water.

On Wednesday, a corrections officer entered the wing and attempted to move one RHU prisoner from his cell.  The inmate reportedly “came out of his restraints,” overpowered the officer and took his keys – freeing other inmates in the wing.

How did these inmates wind up on the roof of the dorm?

“With RHU being a secure unit the only place to go was the roof,” one source told us.  “RHU prisoners did not hurt officers and let them leave (the) building voluntarily.”

Additionally, we’re told reports of fires and escaped inmates published yesterday by WIS TV 10 (NBC – Columbia, S.C.) – supplied by the McCormick County sheriff’s office – were erroneous.

Nonetheless, the incident resulted in another rapid response team being dispatched from Columbia to McCormick to deal with the situation.

As we noted in our previous coverage, the ongoing violence at McCormick is the latest bad news for a prison system that has been rocked by multiple scandals this year – most notably a high-profile escape that led to exposure of glaring breakdowns in security at Lieber Correctional Institution, a level three prison located in Ridgeville, S.C.

What’s driving the problems?  According to our sources staffing shortages are playing a major role in the problems.

“The shortage of staff has gotten to a level to where at night shift there are only 10 officers for 1000 prisoners,” our source said.  “The same week the water line broke the morning shift was so short they could not open prison and had to declare emergency and staff was sent from across the state temporarily.”

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