COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — More than a dozen detainees are facing charges after a fiery riot at a South Carolina jail that is already subject to a federal civil rights investigation, authorities said.
The Richland County Sheriff’s Department and Columbia Fire Department responded to a fire at Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center at about 8 p.m. Sunday, according to a sheriff’s department statement. Investigators think the detainees burned bedsheets and armed themselves with blunt objects during what “turned into a riot,” officials said.
One detainee broke a door leading to the location of the fire, but firefighters forced the door open and extinguished the blaze. Deputies helped detention officers secure 40 detainees, officials said in the statement. The incident was resolved at about 11:15 p.m., according to an incident report. The jail holds between 500 and 600 detainees on any given day, sheriff’s department spokesperson Jay Weaver said in an email.
The sheriff’s department is not aware of any grievances expressed by detainees, Weaver said.
Of the 40 detainees taken into custody, 14 are being charged with rioting, two are being charged with arson and one is being charged with possession of contraband, the sheriff’s department said in a statement. One was taken to a hospital suffering from smoke inhalation. No detainees escaped, officials said.
Responding to the detention center is an everyday event for the department, Sheriff Leon Lott said in a statement on Monday.
“Last night’s incident is not the first and will not be the last. We all need to understand that those in the Detention Center are there for a reason, they are accused of committing a crime. Our courts have determined that they are either a flight risk or a danger to the community,” Lott said. “We will continue to investigate crimes within the Detention Center and make charges against those who continue their criminal behavior even while incarcerated.”
When deputies arrived, guards were moving detainees who were directly below the fire and about 14 detainees on the upper level were throwing items at windows and banging on them with socks filled with hard objects, according to the incident report. Deputies and guards warned as they entered that detainees should get on the floor or be stunned. Detainees complied and were detained, the report states.
A dozen detainees at the jail were charged after a 2021 riot in which detainees attacked two officers and destroyed much of a unit housing 50 detainees before a special team “used a show of force” to end the riot.
The jail, which is named for officer Alvin S. Glenn, who was beaten and strangled by three detainees trying to escape in 2000, is one of two jails in the state under federal investigation. The U.S. Justice Department announced earlier this month that the civil rights probes will examine the conditions at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center and Sheriff Al Cannon Detention Center in Charleston, where incarcerated people have died violently at the hands of employees or others held behind bars.
Several detainees have been stabbed and assaulted at the Alvin S. Glenn Detention Center in multiple incidents in recent weeks, according to statements from the sheriff’s office.