The United States Attorney's Office announced the arrest of fourteen employees of South Carolina correctional facilities who are now facing Federal charges to bribery and bringing contraband in the state’s prisons. U.S. Attorney for the District of South Carolina, Beth Drake, says the charges resulted from an investigation that has been ongoing for years.
Drake went on to detail three cases from recent years in which criminal defendants had been conducting illegal activities from inside prison walls. In a 2017 case, a prisoner used a contraband cell phone to access the dark web to purchase a mail bomb that was then used in an attempted murder. In the South Carolina upstate, two Spartanburg brothers were convicted this year of multiple drug and money laundering charges, conducted from behind bars in collaboration with their family on the outside. Lastly, a 2010 case involved a prisoner conspiring to commit murder-for-hire targeting Captain Robert Johnson, a guard supervisor at Lee Correctional Institution.
The indictments come about a week after Lee Correctional Institution had multiple prison riots lasting several hours, resulting in the deaths of seven prisoners. The director of the state's Department of Corrections, Bryan Stirling, has pointed to contraband cell phones as a contributing factor, if not the main cause, of the outbreak of violence. Officials today stressed that the timing of the fourteen indictments is not connected to last week's events at the Bishopville facility. Rather, Stirling says contraband has been an ongoing problem they have been working to address since he began in his role as director.
As the investigation is ongoing and litigation is pending, officials deferred providing details about the fourteen cases, including confirming which individuals were already charged by the state. South Carolina Public Radio will provide updates to this story as information is made available.