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Inmates with good behavior are rewarded

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RIDGEVILLE, S.C. (WCIV) – Robert is an inmate serving 20 years for armed robbery at Lieber Correctional Institution. He arrived in 2008, and has seen two worlds at the prison: One of strict confinement, and one that has privileges.

"The other dorms still got the prison mentality that got them in here in the first place," Robert said.

Robert now lives in a place known as the character dorm. It's a place where good behavior is rewarded.

Warden Joseph McFadden says it sets a positive example for others in the prison.

"Those guys help a lot when it comes to being able to mentor other inmates. The other inmates are able to see them in a positive light," McFadden said.

McFadden says last January's disturbance, where 200 inmates took control of their wing and injured two correctional officers, pushed the concept ahead.

He says inmates must have good disciplinary records for two years. The prisoners are interviewed and screen before they're admitted. The inmates are given a lot. They have the luxury to leave their cell doors open, watch movies and happily comply with daily schedules.

Robert says the men are like brothers, and theirs is trusting relationship.

"I don't have to watch my back, or be afraid my stuff will be taken," he said.

The character dorm is just a start for Lieber. This past January, the prison stepped up security measures of the perimeter. They now have a few people patrolling areas where contraband slipped by in the past.

More than 700 cell phones were confiscated in 2012. The year before, there were only 449. So far this year, there have been 50 cell phones.

One of the contraband officers says a flip phone can go for $300 to $500 inside the prison. Smart phones can fetch up to $1,000.

"I can't say we are going to stop everything, but I think we have a real good vision about where we want to be next year this time," McFadden said.

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