LEE COUNTY, SC (WIS) - A former Lee Correctional Institution officer said the conditions inside the dorms within the prison were "disgusting" when she worked there in 2013.
Furthermore, she said some of her fellow corrections officers treated inmates the way the facility was kept; like trash.
"They treated them like trash, the rooms smelled like trash, the dorms smelled like trash, it was disgusting," the woman who identified herself as Shakerra said. "It's sad because the inmates were being treated that way because of the crimes they committed."
She said severe staffing shortages within the prison also caused inmates to become easily agitated.
"You're supposed to have two officers per each side of the dorm," she said. "But there were times when we only had one, and that's when you have to place the inmates on lockdown and they can be in there for days. So when they come out, they're really upset and worked up."
Shakerra said it's being locked up for extended periods of time that often causes many inmates to become aggressive.
"They're looking for respect," she said. "From each other and officers. If shown respect, they'll respect you."
She said a lack of things to do inside prison and little hope for those serving long sentences can also translate into violent behavior.
"You have to give them something so they can realize, hey, I can still do something even in this situation I'm in," she said. "When everything is taken away from them they really feel like they have nothing to lose."
She said she believes officers did everything correctly responding to Sunday night's riot inside several dorms.
"We're not trained to handle large-scale riots when there are hundreds of them and only a couple of you," she said. "You're supposed to get out, lock it down and call for help and that's what they did."
According to Shakerra, officers are only armed with pepper spray, something she said will do nothing to interrupt a full-scale riot, especially when inmates have weapons.
We have reached out to the state Department of Corrections for comment on the conditions of dorms within the facility and what programs are made available to inmates. So far, it has not responded to our request.