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Lawmaker: Murdered SC inmates dealt with mental illness

(WACH)

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COLUMBIA, S.C. (WACH)-- New developments have surfaced in the death of four inmates at a high security prison in Columbia and South Carolina lawmakers want to know how this could happen.

Sen. Katrina Shealy says she is trying to process how four inmates were found dead last week in a housing unit at Kirkland Correctional on Broad River Road.

Richland County Coroner Gary Watts says, John King, Jason Kelley, Jimmy Hamm and William Scruggs were strangled to death one by one.

SEE ALSO | 2 inmates charged with murder in death of 4 inmates at SC prison

WACH FOX News has also learned the pod where the men were housed were for the mentally deficient.

Authorities say two other inmates, who were serving life sentences for murder, admitted to killing the four men as a pair.

Shealy says she does not want to jump to conclusions on the details of how or why the incident occurred, however, she says South Carolina is failing it's mentally ill population.

"There is something that South Carolina needs to look at seriously! We don't need for our corrections facility to be a place to house the mentally ill."

The Lexington County Senator says under-staffing in state prisons is also an issue that needs to be addressed.

Dorchester Representative Katie Arrington is also speaking out on the incident saying, "I know I am only a freshman legislator, but I have seen enough to know that major reform is needed not only with the Department of Corrections, but also the Department of Juvenile Justice. As you know, my passion is helping our youth and fixing DJJ. Sadly, the two agencies are linked. Talk of fixing our prison problems is cheap; it's time for real action."

Lawmakers passed legislation last year that will funnel more funding into the Department of Corrections in order to raise salaries for correction officers by $1,500.

Legislators say while the move was a great first step, there's a lot more work to be done at the agency.

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