SC prison officials get the okay to use $6 million for prison riot settlements

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COLUMBIA, SC (WSPA) — Three years after one of the deadliest prison riots in the state’s history, the South Carolina Department of Corrections is settling dozens of lawsuits filed in the aftermath.

Tuesday morning, the State Fiscal Accountability Authority (SFAA) gave state prison officials the go ahead to use $6 million to settle 81 different lawsuits. These were filed by inmates or on the behalf of inmates following the April 2018 riot at Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville.

The lawsuits were filed in both state and federal court. Some of litigation alleged agency personnel knew about dangerous problems at the state prison but did nothing to fix them.

Officials said seven inmates died and others were injured during the riot. As of Tuesday, 29 people have been charged in connection with the incident.

The approval from the SFAA is required by state law before finalizing these settlements. Terms of each individual settlement have not been released since they have not been signed yet.

Governor Henry McMaster said, “There’s been a lot of work. I think it’s a good settlement.”

The state Department of Corrections said a handful of changes have been made at Lee Correctional to prevent this from happening again.

Director Bryan Stirling said, “We’ve done everything we can to manage risks.”

He said new security measures, better pay for correctional officers, the transfer of some ‘problematic’ inmates to a private prison in Mississippi and their new classification system that incentivizes good behavior have made things safer at Lee Correctional.

Right now, prison officials said there are 1,273 inmates housed at Lee Correctional. 270 of those inmates are considered maximum custody. On April 15, 2018, the night of the riot, there were more than 1,338 maximum custody inmates at the prison.

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