Officer attacked with pipe during Ridgeville prison riot

By Valencia Wicker

RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) - Lieber Correctional Institution houses some of the state's most dangerous criminal offenders. Late Wednesday night, inmates broke into a riot, physically attacking two prison guards and destroying much of the dorm.

"Offenders took some keys to the facility from the officers and some radios and just kind of dispersed through the building. When that happened, we of course went into emergency mode," said Clark Newsom, communications director for the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

Newsom says the inmates were on work detail in the Ashley dorm when the attack happened. The dorm houses approximately 229 inmates.

"They did a pretty good number on the dorm," Newsom said. "A lot of sprinklers broken, toilets broken up, glass everywhere, quite a bit of damage."

At least 10 local law enforcement agencies responded to the incident. One guard was hit with a pipe. Both were taken to an area hospital and treated for minor injuries.

"You're talking about two against 220. And, if some sort of opportunity comes about, something can happen," Newsom said.

Although it may seem unpractical, it is normal for there to be only two guards overseeing the dorm during nighttime hours.

"Of course, we're like a lot of state agencies. Our funding is, you know, has been cut back over the years. And, we've had to kind of go with the times, just like everybody else has," Newsom said.

Lieber Correctional has been the scene of many violent acts in the past, including multiple stabbings and strangulations.

"When you are dealing with the type of inmate that we have here, you're going to have some problems," said Newsom. "We would love to have to say that we've had no incidents like that but, there's no prison in this country where you don't have some action like this happen from time to time."

Officials have not yet found how many inmates were involved or what sparked the riot.

Newsom says the inmates involved will face disciplinary action but, did not give specifics.