Senator: Understaffing 'crisis' contributed to inmate deaths

AP News
Posted: Apr 20, 2017 1:51 PM

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A senator who toured the South Carolina prison where four convicts were strangled says there simply aren't enough officers to adequately monitor inmates.

Greenville Sen. Karl Allen said Thursday his visit confirmed that understaffing remains at a "crisis level."

The Department of Corrections has said when the four were killed April 7, two officers were assigned to the dorm housing 139 inmates.

Prisons Director Bryan Stirling says his agency is hiring more officers and making changes to comply with last year's agreement to improve treatment of mentally ill inmates. But Stirling cautions that decades-long problems won't be "fixed overnight." The settlement resolved a 2005 lawsuit on allegations dating to the 1990s.

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Stirling says a single officer sometimes must monitor more than 200 inmates, depending on the prison and shift.