Inmates armed with homemade knives have fought each other in a seven-hour riot over territory and money, leaving seven of them dead in the worst United States prison riot in a quarter-century, officials say.
Lee Correctional houses about 1,500 inmates, some of South Carolina's most violent and longest-serving offenders.
The first fight started in a dorm about 7:15 p.m. Sunday and appeared to be contained before suddenly starting in two other dorms. By 3 a.m. Monday, the prison was under lockdown and order was restored, according to a Facebook post by the department.
Authorities say it took eight hours to quell the riots and secure the prison.
All prison guards and law enforcement authorities who responded were "safe and accounted for". The coroner Larry Logan revealed to the Associated Press that it "appears most of the seven were killed by stabbing or slashing".
Two officers were stabbed at Lee Correctional in 2015. Five months later, according to The State, one inmate was killed and another injured during an incident and five corrections officers were injured during a December 2007 attack by three inmates.
With 12 officers reportedly on duty at the time of the incident, Stirling says they were waiting to safely enter the prison with a large enough force.
Lee County Fire and Rescue says it assisted in a mass casualty situation at Lee Correctional, adding that other emergency crews from neighboring counties - including some that are roughly 40 miles away - also pitched in.
An inmate at the scene told AP that correctional officers did not attempt to halt the inmate-on-inmate violence as bodies "literally stacked on top of each other".
"Without sufficient staff the prison environment became more violent", said Bauer, whose book American Prison is publishing soon.
The state has about 5 000 prison employees in 22 institutions, but "security staff numbers continue to lag behind the authorized strength", it said, without giving numbers.
The deaths occurred as a result of inmates fighting each other in numerous altercations, the prison service indicated. "We failed. That's it". The state capital is home to the Kirkland Correctional Institution, where four inmates were fatally strangled a year ago. Nikki Haley in 2013 to lead the state prison agency.
Meanwhile, inmate deaths are on the rise in South Carolina-they actually more than doubled between 2016 and 2017.