Alex Murdaugh used to rub shoulders with South Carolina’s legal elite – now he’s housed alongside the state’s most despicable criminals.
The disgraced legal scion is under 24-hour surveillance in a cramped concrete cell at the the high-security Kirkland Correctional Institution. Prison officials fear his former role as the patriarch of a prominent legal family makes him a target for other inmates.
Meals are brought to the 54-year-old in his cell. On the rare occasions he’s given a break from confinement, Murdaugh is escorted by at least one prison officer. He’ll spend 45 days housed there while authorities conduct medical tests, mental health checks and ‘gather other additional background information’.
Kirkland is one of South Carolina’s most notorious facilities. Far from being safe inside the prison’s fortified walls, inmates like Murdaugh are under constant threat from the killers, sex offenders and armed robbers they call neighbors.
The shocking absence of law and order within the so-called correctional facility was highlighted in 2017 when two inmates strangled four others after luring the victims into their cell with promises of drugs and cookies.
Alex Murdaugh will spend 45 days under 24-hour surveillance in a cramped cell – with only a steel bed, toilet and sink – amid fears he could be a target for other notorious inmates at the notorious Kirkland Correctional Institution
Kirkland Correctional Center will be Murdaugh’s grim new home for the next few weeks as he undergoes evaluation for where to be sent permanently
Alex Murdaugh with wife Maggie and their sons Buster (left) and Paul (right)
The killings were carried out by Denver Simmons, who was jailed for killing a mother and her son, and fellow inmate Jacob Philip, convicted of strangling his girlfriend and her eight-year-old daughter.
Their motive: the pair wanted to be placed on death row because they were fed up with life in the hellhole jail.
One by one, they lured their four victims into their cell then used a broom and electrical cord as weapons to beat and strangle them, hiding the bodies behind a curtain on their bunk. Simmons and Philip then calmly strolled down to the guard station and confessed.
Kirkland inmates have also been known to orchestrate horrific crimes on the outside from within their cells.
Two years ago, armed robber Harvester Jackson used a contraband cellphone to orchestrate the attempted murder of his ex-girlfriend in Columbia, South Carolina.
Jackson was in Kirkland serving a 10-year sentence when he ordered four accomplices to shoot up the victim’s home, prosecutors alleged. His ex-girlfriend, who survived the attempt on her life, told investigators it wasn’t the first time Jackson had ordered an attack from behind bars.
Denver Simmons and Jacob Philip strangled four inmates during a 30-minute killing spree at Kirkland Correctional Institution in 2017. They lured the victims into their cells and then used a broom handle and electrical cord to beat and strangle them
Armed robber Harvester Jackson used a contraband cellphone to orchestrate the attempted murder of his ex-girlfriend in Columbia, South Carolina, from inside Kirkland prison
Kirkland’s notorious reputation was also highlighted by a recent report which found it had the highest death rate of any prison in South Carolina. Between 2015 and 2021, 160 inmates died at the state-run institution.
In second place was Broad River Correctional Institution, which is just a stone’s throw away from Kirkland and could be where Murdaugh ends up housed. There were 101 death at Broad River, which houses medium and high-security inmates, across the six year period.
Kirkland is where the vast majority of South Carolina’s male prisoners are first sent after they’re convicted. After 45 days of assessment there, authorities will decide where Murdaugh should spend his life sentence. His status as a double murderer means he’s likely to remain at a high-security site like Kirkland.
In the meantime Murdaugh, who was found guilty of murdering wife Maggie and son Paul, will spend up to 23 hours-a-day in his dingy cell, with only a steel bed, toilet and sink.
Trial attorney Robert Rikard has said that because Murdaugh is ‘convicted of a violent crime, he will go to a facility that only houses the violent criminals. The worst of the worst.’
‘These are brutal environments and it will be quite a shock after the privileged life he has lived,’ said Rikard.
Alex Murdaugh is led out of the courthouse to a waiting prison van to begin his life sentence
The grim conditions are in stark contrast to the privileged world of multi-million dollar homes from the coast to the hunting lands of the Lowcountry he is used to.
Another mugshot of Murdaugh was released yesterday that showed him grinning, shaven-headed and dressed in a yellow prison jumpsuit and white undershirt.
Murdaugh was last week sentenced to two consecutive life sentences after he was found guilty of shooting dead his wife Maggie, 52, and younger son Paul, 22, at the family’s hunting estate in Moselle on the night of June 7, 2021.
Kirkland is home to more than 1,700 of the most violent criminals in the state and churns through more than 8,000 prisoners each year for evaluation.
As well as serving as the processing site for all of the state’s convicts, it is also home to a specialized maximum-security jail for the most dangerous and violent offenders.
‘Kirkland is also responsible for the maximum-security unit which houses some of the most violent and dangerous inmates in the state,’ the site’s website says.
‘Furthermore, Kirkland Correctional Center houses inmates who are in the statewide protective custody program.’
Judge Clifton Newman issued a searing sentencing earlier, describing Murdaugh as a ‘monster’ who continued to lie even when the evidence was damning.
‘This case qualifies under our death penalty statute based on the statutory aggravating circumstances of two or more people being murdered by the defendant by one act or pursuant to one scheme or course of conduct. I don’t question at all the decision of the state not to pursue the death penalty.
More than 700 prisoners died in South Carolina’s prions and jails between 2015 and 2021. The majority of those deaths occurred at Kirkland
The majority of prisoner deaths in the state occurred at Kirkland (160) and Broad River (101)
This undated file photo provided on July 11, 2019, by the South Carolina Department of Corrections shows the new death row at Broad River Correctional Institution in Columbia, SC
‘But as I sit here in this courtroom and look around at the many portraits of judges and other court officials and reflect on the fact that over the past century, your family, including you, have been prosecuting people here in this courtroom and many have received the death penalty, probably for lesser conduct.
‘Remind me of the expression you gave on the witness stand. Oh, what tangled web we weave. What did you mean by that?’
‘I meant when I lied, I continued to lie,’ Murdaugh replied.
‘And the question is when will it end? When will it end? And it has ended already for the jury, because they’ve concluded that you continue to lie and lied throughout your testimony. And perhaps with all the throng of people here, they for the most part all believe or 80, 90 or 99% believe that you continue to lie now when your statement of denial to the court.’
Murdaugh learned his fate in the same courtroom on the circuit that his father, grandfather and great-grandfather tried cases as the elected prosecutor for more than 80 years.
His grandfather’s portrait hung in the back of the room until the judge ordered it taken down for the trial.