McCormick South Carolina Prison Incident Raises Staffing Concerns

Are there enough guards at Palmetto prisons?

An attempted escape at McCormick Correctional Institution in McCormick, South Carolina on Sunday is raising concerns about staffing levels at Palmetto State prisons.

According to officials at the S.C. Department of Corrections (SCDC), the attempted escape took place at around 6:00 p.m. EST on Sunday (December 27, 2020). One correctional officer was locked inside a cell as inmates plotted their getaway from the maximum security facility – which houses some of the state’s most violent criminals.

Five inmates were eventually captured “near an interior prison yard fence,” officials said – including two inmates who sustained “non-life threatening injuries” in connection with the escape attempt. No correctional officers were physically harmed during the incident – which was over by 11:00 p.m. EST.

The incident is being investigated by SCDC police and agents of the S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) – but prison advocates tell this news outlet inadequate staffing is at least partly to blame for what happened.

“Chalk it up to SCDC being short-staffed,” one told us.

McCormick is a level three, maximum security facility. It 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.

It is also no stranger to violence. Earlier this month, our news director Mandy Matney filed a report on two McCormick inmates who were charged with murder after allegedly stabbing another inmate in his cell.

We filed an extensive report on escalating violence at McCormick back in 2017. Shortly thereafter, several of its inmates were transferred to Lee Correctional Institution, another level three SCDC prison located in Bishopville, S.C.

What happened next? One of the deadliest prison riots in American history …

Like all level three facilities in South Carolina, McCormick features “double-fenced” perimeters monitored by “extensive electronic surveillance.” According to SCDC, inmates at level three facilities are “closely supervised and their activities and movement within the institution are highly restricted.”

But are there enough guards to conduct proper supervision? That is a question we will be delving into soon …

To their credit, SCDC officials worked with local law enforcement officers – including deputies from the McCormick county sheriff’s office and officers from the town of McCormick police department – to secure the perimeter of the facility during the attempted escape. Local firefighters and emergency medical technicians (EMTS) also responded to the incident.

“There were no incidents to report on the perimeter,” a release from the McCormick sheriff’s office noted. “Rumors of prisoners escaping are unfounded. The prison is secured and the community is completely safe at this time.”

“There was an incident at the prison but SCDC employees kept them inside the fence,” a statement from the McCormick police department added. “Locking them down now.”




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