Three corrections officers were assaulted during what state officials called a "disturbance" overnight Tuesday at a prison in Dorchester County housing some of South Carolina's most dangerous criminals.
It was the same one where a riot erupted less than three years ago.
The Lieber Correctional Institute officers are recovering after being taken to area hospitals, South Carolina Department of Corrections Director of Communications Stephanie Givens said Wednesday. One officer was flown by helicopter to Medical University hospital and the other two were taken to Trident Medical Center, said Doug Warren, director of Dorchester County's emergency services,
Five inmates also were treated at the prison for minor injuries, Givens said. No other information about the guards' or the inmates' injuries was released Wednesday.
The disturbance broke out around 9:30 p.m., Givens said, at the maximum-security prison in Ridgeville where more than 1,500 inmates are incarcerated, including about 50 men awaiting execution on death row. It took nearly six hours - until 3:05 a.m. - to secure the prison, she said.
Givens said the cause of the disturbance is under investigation. She did not know how many inmates were involved, but said there was never any threat to the public. Death row inmates are housed separately from the rest of the prison population.
The incident occurred in same wing where inmates rioted in January 2012, the Ashley A unit, and prisoners rampaged through the dorm, smashing windows, trashing common areas and offices, and setting off water sprinklers while seeking places to hide, according to prison officials. Some rooms filled with three feet of water before workers could shut off the flow.
During the five-hour riot, inmates broke off metal desk legs and used them as pipes to assault two officers who were keeping watch over the dorm's 229 hard-core offenders.
A special prison response team took back the prison wing and recaptured the inmates after firing tear gas into the dorm.
Afterward, a prison official said violent outbursts are to be expected at a maximum-security prison - Lieber has had six serious assaults, including two homicides, in the past seven years. In 2009, a guard was stabbed 14 times by two notorious killers he was escorting from death row to the recreation yard.
In September 2010, 72-year-old Saverio Piazzola was strangled in his cell while serving a 10-year sentence for criminal sexual conduct with a minor.
In August 2006, 19-year-old James Belli was killed when another prisoner repeatedly plunged a shank into his neck, according to authorities.
Reach Natalie Caula Hauff at 937-5594 or Twitter.com/ncaula.