Walking with murderers: An inside look at SC's most dangerous prison

RIDGEVILLE, SC (WCSC) - When entering South Carolina's most dangerous prison, the first thing you notice is the noise. The second thing you notice is the smell. It is obvious that Lieber Correctional Institution is no country club.

"Forget about the fancy facade, you know, the bricks the landscape, it's still an all male penitentiary," said Lieber Prison Major Thierry Nettles.

More than 1,500 inmates live at Lieber. The prison is surrounded by razor wire so sharp that it will cut or even kill. It makes it virtually impossible for prisoners to break out.

"They don't want to be here," said warden Wayne McCabe. "They broke a law to get here. Our responsibility is to make sure they stay."

It is just as tough to get into Lieber. In this special report, we had to remove our shoes, walk through a metal detector and get patted down by an officer.

There are 251 officers to watch over the inmates. They include Capt. Ann Sheppard who has worked at the prison for 16 years.

"In the beginning, it was a little scary for me being a female and dealing with all of the hardened criminals," Sheppard said.

Early on, Sheppard said she worried about possibly getting killed.

"That thought has crossed my mind in the beginning," Sheppard said. "And that's only normal to feel that way when you initially come inside the prison, listening to the doors slam behind you."

Officers say that contrary to public perception, most of the inmates get to go outside.

"They think that the inmates are certainly locked behind the cell doors and they're walking around every day, just like you and I," Sheppard explained.

Actually the inmates walk right next to the guards, as long as they stay between the yellow lines. Some of them are cold blooded killers and are always being watched closely by the officers.

We got to tour one of the most dangerous parts of the prison called "Lockup." It houses some of the most violent offenders. Anyone who enters that area has to wear what is called an anti-stabbing vest and a face shield for protection.

Officer Patrick Lundgren doesn't mind dealing with these prisoners.

"You control every part of their life and if you are doing it right, they can't do anything to you," Lundgren said.

But the inmates can make life difficult for the folks who work here. The contraband team seizes hundreds of cell phones that are tossed over the prison fences. Lieber is also home to death row, where convicted killers wait to be executed.

After taking this tour, it makes you wonder why these men and women want to work around such dangerous people.

"If I can save one, then I know I've done my job," Sheppard said.

There are several programs in place at Lieber to help inmates re-enter society.

The warden is starting character unit that will allow well behaved inmates to spend more time out of their cells.

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