Razor wire protects a perimeter of the Lee Correctional Institution in Bishopville, South Carolina (Sean Rayford / AP file)
At least seven inmates are dead and 17 others are injured after an hour-long disturbance in one maximum security prison in South Carolina, according to the state corrections department .
Several fights broke out between inmates in three separate housing units at the Lee Correctional Institution around 7:15 p.m. m. On Sunday, authorities took more than 7 and a half hours, until 2:55 am on Monday, to secure the prison, authorities said.
No officer or staff member was among the dead or injured, the corrections department added.  Emergency teams from at least half a dozen agencies responded to the "mass casualty incident," according to Lee County Fire and Rescue.
Lee Correctional Institution is one of the safest prisons in South Carolina, which It means that inmates are generally strictly monitored and their movements within the facilities are limited.
Of the nine highest-security prisons in South Carolina, Lee, in Bishopville, South Carolina, about 60 miles northeast of Columbia, is the largest.
houses around 1,600 male inmates, most of them in general housing instead of more restricted housing, according to state records.
According to the Department of Corrections of South Carolina, the number of inmates in state prisons has decreased in recent years, reaching its peak almost a decade ago. There were more than 20,400 inmates detained in facilities in South Carolina last year, compared to a maximum of 24,040 inmates in 2010, according to state records.
This story has been updated.
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