COLUMBIA, S.C. — Authorities were still investigating Wednesday how several inmates got to the top of a dorm room at a maximum-security prison in South Carolina.
Department of Corrections spokesman Jeff Taillon told The Associated Press that a handful inmates climbed on top of a dorm at McCormick Correctional Institution, about 85 miles west of Columbia. According to Taillon, officials didn’t see the ascent as a serious escape attempt, because the inmates would have had to get through at least three fences topped with razor wire to get to freedom.
The Department of Corrections said on Twitter that the dorm had been secured as of 9 p.m. Wednesday night.
McCormick County Sheriff Clarke Starnes said no inmates have escaped Wednesday from McCormick Correctional Institution and no injuries have been reported so far. Starnes said firefighters were called, but have been asked to stay outside until it is safe.
The Department of Corrections said on Twitter the incident was isolated to one housing unit and that all employees were safe. Corrections officials also say reports of a fire at the prison are incorrect.
The prison is approximately 75 miles west of Columbia, and houses about 900 men. McCormick is considered a Level 3 facility, housing violent offenders with longer sentences and inmates with behavioral problems, according to the South Carolina Department of Corrections.
Housing is made up of single and double cells, with double fencing around all perimeters and extensive electronic surveillance. The state operates six Level 3 facilities.
McCormick Correctional Institution has experienced a number of disturbances in recent years.
On Wednesday, December 7, inmate Michael Allen Williamson was discovered missing from the facility just before 9 p.m. By 10 p.m., Columbia police officer Ashley Hardesty had been stabbed. The inmate was taken into custody the morning of December 8 after attempting to enter a school in Lexington.
The Department of Corrections reported an inmate was killed in a fight on September 25, 2016. On March 30, 2015, three correctional officers were hospitalized after being injured by inmates. The facility was locked down following both incidents.
Ricky Cooper, a convicted sex offender from Graniteville, was found dead outside his cell in a common area at the facility on November 26, 2011. He pleaded guilty in March 2009 to two counts of criminal sexual conduct with a minor and was sentenced to 20 years in prison, according to court records. John Michael New, 32, was charged with murder in the incident.
On January 2, 2010, Lamont Perry was fatally stabbed by a fellow inmate at the facility. Jack Cooper, 21, was arrested for the attack.