Leaked internal email from Southern Regional Jail shows nearly 40 cells without water in November

Leaked internal email from Southern Regional Jail shows nearly 40 cells without water in November
Published: Sep. 27, 2022 at 2:01 PM EDT
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - On Friday, WVVA News reported on the federal civil rights lawsuit filed on behalf of hundreds of inmates at Southern Regional Jail. Included in that suit were sworn affidavits from correctional officers who provided pictures and video to back up claims of inhumane living conditions at the jail.

See copy of suit here

Since that report, WVVA News has obtained more exhibits that are part of the suit, including a leaked internal document from a correctional officer inside the jail. The internal email from from November of 2021 shows nearly 40 of the jail’s 160 cells had no running water at the time. It also lists broken windows and numerous water leaks on the floor.

See copy of internal memo here

“Attached to the lawsuit are sworn affidavits for various correctional officers who have witnessed the substandard, inhumane conditions at Southern Regional Jail over a long period of time,” said attorney Steve New, one of several who are part of the ongoing litigation.

WVVA News has since spoken with the correctional officer who took some of the videos that accompanied the suit that show numerous cells without running water. The officer claimed the videos and pictures were taken in the Spring, around the time of the state’s own investigation into the facility called for by Governor Jim Justice. See findings of that report here: https://governor.wv.gov/Documents/2022 Documents/042822-DHS-SRJ-Investigation-Report.pdf

At that time, Secretary of Homeland Security Jeff Sandy said his investigation found no evidence of inhumane living conditions. “I don’t know all of the details of Ms. Moore’s interview,” he said. “But in this particular case, did they have access to water? Yes. Toilet paper? Yes. Mattresses? Yes.”

The internal memo was not turned over as part of WVVA News’ Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request last March, in which the station asked for any documentation and emails relating to the provision of water to inmates during the Pandemic. On April 5, the jail’s superintendent responded to that request, saying “We are not aware of any concerning this request other than the recent news article.”

Meanwhile, WVVA News has been working on getting a comment from the state on the latest claims included in the suit, including the internal memo. While a Department of Homeland Security attorney said Friday “We cannot comment on active legal matters,” WVVA News reached out again regarding the internal memo on Monday.

WVVA News also reached out to a representative of Governor Jim Justice’s office on Monday to find out if he still stands by the findings of his April investigation. We will share those responses as soon as they are received.