An investigation is underway after inmates rioted and started a fire at a jail in Columbia Sunday, according to the Richland County Sheriff’s Department.
The fire had been started by multiple inmates who ignited bed sheets, the sheriff’s department said. The situation then turned into a riot as the inmates also armed themselves with blunt objects, according to the release.
One inmate broke one of the doors leading to where the fire was inside the jail, and firefighters had to force the door open before they extinguished the blaze, the sheriff’s department said.
Deputies assisted the jail’s guards by entering the location of the fire and securing all detainees in that area, according to the release. Forty inmates were detained, the sheriff’s department said.
None of those inmates nor any guards were injured, according to the release.
Information about any new charges facing the inmates was not available. There was no word about a motive for the riot and fire, but the incident is being investigated, the sheriff’s department said.
Problems at the jail
This is one of the latest incidents at the troubled jail where there have been several issues in 2023, including the attacks on multiple inmates, according to the sheriff’s department.
Earlier in November, the U.S. Department of Justice and and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for South Carolina launched a civil rights investigation into the jail.
The investigation into whether conditions at the jail violated inmate’s civil rights comes as scrutiny has grown following deaths, attacks, escapes, severe understaffing and poor conditions inside of the Richland County facility. The jail houses individuals arrested in the city of Columbia and Richland County, as well as inmates from some other areas in the Midlands and some individuals arrested on federal charges.
The jail is managed by the Richland County government, not the sheriff’s department.
County officials previously pledged to make wide-ranging improvements to the jail, including restructuring leadership and increasing pay for staff. They have also pledged more than a million dollars to retrofit locks and renovate the kitchen and some common areas.
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