Residents of Bishopville react to deadly prison riot

BISHOPVILLE, SC (WIS) - Residents in the small town of Bishopville are on edge after a prison riot at Lee Correctional Institute resulted in the deaths of seven inmates and injured 17 more.

The prison first opened in 1993, causing many people to relocate to areas farther away from the grounds.

"Bishopville was always quiet, it wasn't a bad place to live and it's still not, but bad enough," Lorine Wright, a lifelong resident of Bishopville said. "It seems like in the last three or four years it's been getting more and more violent."

Ten inmates have been killed at the facility since August of 2017. For some residents, news of Sunday night's deadly riot was not surprising.

"No, it's not the first and I don't think it's going to be the last. Every year there's something going on over there," resident William Macmillan said. "They escape, killing one another in there. They're not taking care of them. And that's not good."

Julie Hayes works in Bishopville and has children who attend nearby schools.

"I've never felt comfortable living this close to a prison," Hayes said. "These inmates have nothing to lose when they riot. They're not getting out and if they are it's going to be a long time from now. I've never been comfortable being this close to a prison."

Many residents believe more corrections officers inside the facility would curb the ongoing violence and the state has made an effort over the last two years to hire more officers for its prisons. The state has also allocated millions of dollars to improve incentives, such as benefits and salary, to attract prospective employees.

"I think the majority of people here feel like me, they feel threatened but they want to see what the system is going to do about it," William Pearson said. "In the last few years it's gotten worse and we need to figure out what's going on."

The riot and subsequent response from officers and SLED are under investigation.

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