29 inmates charged in deadly 2018 prison riot

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA (AP) — Twenty-nine inmates have been charged in connection with a South Carolina prison riot that left seven inmates dead and 22 injured in 2018, the state’s attorney general announced on Thursday.

The charges were filed against the inmates at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, Attorney General Alan Wilson said at a news conference. He said three of the inmates were charged with murder, while others are facing charges including first-degree assault and battery by a mob resulting in death.

The nearly eight hours of killings and chaos at the prison in April 2018 constituted the nation’s deadliest prison riot in nearly 25 years. All 1,200 inmates were put on lockdown for weeks after the unrest at the high-security prison, which houses violent offenders and inmates with demonstrated behavioural issues.

Prosecutors said the violence that night erupted between rival gangs after an inmate was killed. Gang members at the prison then retaliated against the inmate who killed him, The Post and Courier reported. The use of illegal cellphones to communicate led to the “mob riot”, Wilson said.

“The reason we are here today is because of these mobile phones,” Department of Corrections Director Bryan Stirling said at Thursday’s news conference. The phones are “essentially a weapon in inmates’ hands”, he said.

A sign outside the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, SC. PHOTO: AP