“From the blood of George Jackson, to the ashes of Attica, they arise.” -Efia Nwangaza, Director of the Malcom-X Center for Self-Determination
Standing outside Lee Correctional Institute (LCI), in Bishopville, South Carolina, roughly sixty people gathered to remember the seven inmates killed in the avoidable Lee Correctional Murders. On April 15th, corrections officers refused to aid dying inmates during a riot that was caused by the overpopulated and horrid conditions. Out in an open field, the sun’s oppressive heat couldn’t stop the community from coming together, last August 25th, to testify to the cruelty of the South Carolina Department of Corrections (SCDC).
The memorial and rally was organized by an assortment of organizations across the Palmetto State. Notably, the Free South Carolina Movement (FSCM), a “statewide prison based, prisoner led” group that was “organized in response to the historic Lee County violence.” They are the ones in the matching orange shirts.
All the while, the police stood by in the only available shade, watching. Their only function was to turn away the media, which they did twice, and to keep friends and family from visiting their loved ones inside the thrice-walled facility. The second speaker, a father of an LCI inmate, called the denial of visitors an act of “retaliation” against the prison reformers and abolitionists. Not long after his comment, it was announced that the Turbeville Correctional Institute was wholly locked down in response to a rally outside its walls.
Out of the many speakers, one common thread was the suffering that inmates have to endure at the hands of the SCDC. Former inmates of LCI, and elsewhere, testified to their inhumane treatment, and the psychological turmoil that it wreaks. A mother of an inmate, murdered at LCI, spoke about how her son constantly talked about this suffering.
“Dogs in the pound are treated better.” -Father of LCI Inmate
SCDC facilities are, in reality, more like concentration camps than places of rehabilitation. Prisoners in SC are allowed only one shower a week, and the SCDC brags about how little they spend on food. With just under $1.40 a meal, you wouldn’t even feed the food to your dog. Guards are quick to use violence and are astoundingly corrupt. Not only are they responsible for selling narcotics, but, in documented cases, are gang members who use state-sanctioned authority to enforce their gang’s supremacy.
Being locked up will take its toll on anyone. One man described that when imprisoned, one constantly is “feeling hopeless and alone,” and how valuable it is to have a support network. He went on to stress the importance of providing aid to those incarcerated, particularly, before they are released. Which is why the denial of visitors is so cruel. Currently, due to SCDC retaliation, suicide rates have skyrocketed. Just three days before the rally, a man killed himself in Greer, SC. The struggle does not end when a person’s incarceration is over. Assistance for mental health and employment is necessary to prevent a violation of probation on day one.
“We’re not animals, we just need opportunity.” -Former Inmate and Charity Organizer
About halfway through the rally, which started at noon, the memorial began. The ceremony was overseen by Efia Nwangaza, the Director of the Malcom-X Center for Self-Determination, based in Greenville, who read out the names of the seven victims, one by one, and had libations poured in honor of them. After the libation, a cross with their name was staked into the ground, facing the road. Nwangaza acknowledged that the SCDC would take them down immediately, but remarked at how all those involved with their disposal would have to forever bear that shame.
Here are the names of those seven souls:
Raymond Angelo Scott
Damonte Marquez Rivera
Eddie Casey Jay Gaskins
Joshua Svwin Jenkins
Cornelius Quantral McClary