Even before the deadly prison riot, Lee Correctional faced multiple lawsuits alleging violent inmate issues

BISHOPVILLE, SC (WIS) - Even before a prison riot killed seven inmates and injured at least 22 others, Lee Correctional Institution and the state Department of Corrections were already the focus of numerous lawsuits alleging poor care and lax security over inmates.

We received a copy of two of the pending suits against the level three facility in Bishopville. Documents we found from just over the past two years show at least 10 former or current inmates have sued the DOC for personal injuries from other inmates at Lee Correctional.

One of the suits zeros in on a June 15 incident involving a former inmate now suing the facility for negligence. That suit was settled in January. The inmate alleges he was beaten "without provocation or justification" by several other inmates and that no corrections officers came to his aid during the attack.

"The fact that no SCDC officers responded to the Plaintiff's cries for help shows that officers were unreasonably far from the areas as to be willfully absent and/or that the SCDC officers willfully ignored the cries for help and allowed the Plaintiff to be beaten," the suit said.

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A second suit was filed on behalf of seven inmates alleging many of the same issues at Lee Correctional, mainly negligence, a lack of proper staff, gangs being allowed to "run free and commit whatever crimes they want," and a lack of discipline to corrections officers who aren't up to standard.

One such inmate named in the suit, identified as Korell Battle, was returning from kitchen duty after a 15-hour shift when he was awakened by the sound of his cell door being unlocked and kicked open. It was at that point, the suit said, 10 other inmates entered his cell and attacked him with fists and sharp objects.

By the time the attack was over, the suit alleged, Battle had been stabbed so many times that emergency officials at the prison stopped counting the number of wounds after 25. Battle was hospitalized for a week and transferred to McCormick Correctional Institution. He alleged that he still has problems since his treatment for the stabbing.

Another inmate, identified as Darnell Brown, was attacked with knives and axes by a large number of alleged members of the Bloods gang. Brown, the suit said, was stabbed six times during the attack and now has to use a wheelchair or a walker to walk around.

Inmate Lance Lyles also said he was attacked without cause after he used a microwave and asked several inmates who were arguing to move because he had hot food, the suit said.

Lyles, according to the suit, was grabbed from behind and dragged into an open cell where he was beaten in the face with a metal object. According to the suit, a corrections officer saw Lyles' injuries and did nothing to help him to receive treatment.

Lyles, the suit said, was actually so injured that he had three fractures to the left side of his face and needed to be seen by an oral surgeon. However, according to the suit, Lyles was returned to Lee Correctional with the note that he would hopefully recover from his injuries in 6 months.

The suit says Lyles eventually was scheduled to be seen by an oral surgeon.

And another inmate, John Mack, was returning from breakfast when he was suddenly attacked by a group of inmates who shouldn't have been in the wing when the incident took place, the suit said. After he was stabbed multiple times, the suit said, Mack's wounds were glued shut and he was given ibuprofen.

The multiple inmate suit was filed on Feb. 9, 2018 and seeks damages for all of the inmates.

"Plaintiffs believe that due to the ongoing policies and practices of the Defendants in failing to protect the Plaintiffs, which policies, procedures, habits, customs, usage, training and supervisor Defendants have no intention of voluntarily correcting despite the obvious need and requests for such correction, that immediate injunctive relief is necessary and appropriate," the suit said.

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