Two inmates who survived the deadly April prison riot at South Carolina's Lee Correctional Institution filed suit against the state Tuesday, describing a chaotic bloodbath carried out by marauding inmates that was made worse by a lack of guards and cell doors that didn't lock.
One lawsuit — filed by inmate Robert Jackson, 30 — alleges that at 7:30 p.m. on April 15 two masked inmates burst into his cell, demanded his television, radio and food, and then stabbed him repeatedly and beat him with a pipe.
No correctional staff was present in the cellblock, and none showed up for hours, the lawsuit says. "After completing their violent attack ... the attackers then moved on to other inmates within the unit where they violently attacked and stabbed four other inmates."
Seven inmates were killed and 22 injured in the riot, the deadliest U.S. prison disturbance in 25 years. Lee Correctional Institution, a maximum-security prison, is in Bishopville, between Columbia and Florence.
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The second lawsuit — filed by inmate Jadarius Roberts, 21 — alleges that cell doors that did not lock and the absence of guards led to vicious attacks on him and other prisoners by rogue inmates that lasted hours.
Although Roberts barricaded himself in a cell, several inmates pushed their way in and stabbed him "at least 20 times" on "his head, shoulder, arms, hands and back," his lawsuit says.
Jackson is serving nine years in prison for strong-armed robbery and a firearms violation in Darlington County. Roberts is serving eight years for attempted murder in York County.
Both lawsuits accuse the state Department of Corrections of gross negligence, including failing to provide proper security and speedy medical treatment. The lawsuits also say the inmates suffered lasting psychological and physical injuries. They seek unspecified damages.
The state's prison system declined to comment Tuesday on the lawsuits. "The S.C. Department of Corrections does not comment on pending lawsuits," a spokesman said Tuesday.
The Department of Corrections long has acknowledged it needs at least 600 more correctional officers to properly staff some of its 21 prisons as well as more money to increase security.
The lawyers for the inmates are Carter Elliott of Georgetown, Warren Lokey of Charleston and state Rep. Cezar McKnight, D-Williamsburg, of Lake City.
The lawsuits were filed in state court in Lee County.