US: Dozens Plead Guilty of Trafficking Drugs in South Carolina Prisons

Authorities in the United States said that 24 individuals have entered guilty pleas for their involvement in a drug trafficking organization operating within prisons from 2013 to 2021. The operation, known as Prison Empire, has been deemed the largest narcotics conspiracy ever documented within South Carolina's court system.

USA PrisonA gang of prison inmates pleaded guilty for their involvement in a drug trafficking organization operating within the U.S. prisons from 2013 to 2021. (Photo: Gordon Incorporated, Flickr, License)The organization's operations were conducted under the banner of the Insane Gangster Disciples, a faction of The Folk Nation gang established in the 1970s. The Insane Gangster Disciples, characterized as a highly structured gang, operates both within and beyond South Carolina's correctional facilities, with its main focus on drug trafficking.

The South Carolina Attorney General revealed that the drug trade predominantly involved methamphetamine and heroin, with fentanyl, cocaine, and marijuana also being trafficked. Alongside the narcotics operation, the defendants were implicated in violent crimes, including homicides, abductions, and the distribution of firearms.

External assistance played a pivotal role in the organization's illicit activities, with co-conspirators hailing mainly from cities in northern South Carolina. These individuals facilitated the execution of criminal operations and provided critical support.

"Coordinating with individuals outside prison to procure and smuggle drugs into correctional facilities has fueled gang influence, rivalries, and violence within our prison system, and has had reverberations leading to external violence by those involved," the South Carolina Attorney General noted.

The use of contraband cellphones served as a key component in the coordination between incarcerated individuals and external counterparts, playing an instrumental role in the criminal enterprise's functioning. Some defendants were found in possession of these illicit communication devices within the South Carolina Department of Corrections.

"Contraband cellphones pose a real and tangible threat, allowing inmates to sustain criminal operations from behind bars and even amplify them outside," the South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson emphasized.

The series of guilty pleas were registered between August 10 and August 11, 2023. The total number of individuals charged in connection with the operation has now exceeded 90.