Federal civil rights suit filed on behalf of inmates and correctional officers at Southern Regional Jail
BEAVER, W.Va. (WVVA) - A federal class action civil rights lawsuit has been filed on behalf of hundreds of current and former inmates at Southern Regional Jail (SRJ). The suit was filed Thursday by attorneys Steve New, Russell Williams, Zach Whitten, Robert Dunlap, and Tim Lupardus.
WVVA News was given permission by attorney Steve New to share some of the exhibits, photographs, and videos taken by correctional officers that will be part of the court filing.
The complaint references a lack of access to water, food, and beds off the floor. It also references overcrowded conditions and fights that were allowed to go on to the point of injury. Backing up those claims in the suit are five different correctional officers who provided pictures and videos inside the jail.
A spokesperson for the Dept. of Homeland Security said Friday the they could not comment on ongoing litigation. But in April, in the department’s own investigation into the jail, investigators found no evidence of inhumane living conditions.
“If I would have seen that one of these allegations was true, it would have been immediately taken care of and these individuals would have been terminated,” said Sec. Jeff Sandy at the investigation’s conclusion in April.
The suit filed Thursday names not only the regional jail system, but the county commissions as well, which, under state code are responsible for contracting the protection of inmates to the state.
“At what levels were decisions being made not to spend money on things like broken toilets, showers, bunks, or another facility to alleviate the 150 percent overcrowding? We’re going to get answers in this litigation,” New said.
The company previously contracted to provide health care to inmates, PrimeCare, is also named in the suit. But New said Wexford, the latest state-contracted company, may also be included after the death of inmate Alvis Shrewsbury over the weekend. His family claims he was beaten by other inmates and refused medical care.
“That’s after your news stories and so much attention has been brought to this. If we have evidence that Wexford is doing the same thing that Primecare did, Wexford will also be a defendant.
Whitten said it is a suit they hope will bring justice for their clients, but even more so, bring light to an issue that for too long has been locked in the dark.
“It’s a jail. It’s not supposed to be a five star hotel. But when somebody’s brother, son, mother goes into jail, they shouldn’t be left wondering if they’ll ever see them alive again.”
New said the first hearing on the case is expected within 45 days.
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