New allegations raised as part of updated filing in federal Southern Regional Jail suit

New allegations raised as part of updated filing in federal Southern Regional Jail suit
Published: Feb. 22, 2023 at 2:42 PM EST
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BECKLEY, W.Va. (WVVA) - Lawyers on behalf of inmates at Southern Regional Jail (SRJ) have filed an updated complaint in federal court regarding claims of inhumane living conditions at Southern Regional Jail.

The amended complaint adds a number of new subclasses of injured inmates to the suit, including those who are disabled and women. The plaintiffs’ attorneys allege the jail failed to provide accommodations for disabled inmates under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The filing also identifies a group of women who the attorneys claim were victims of the ‘A-8 Gladiators Gang’ at the jail.

Later in the filing, the attorneys take aim at recent testimony regarding the Governor’s 2023 budget request. Despite prevalent water problems, broken locks, and leaky roofs outlined in previous filings, the attorneys called into question the Governor’s request to only provide 29 million to corrections in deferred maintenance. At a hearing early in the session, then-Acting Commissioner Brad Douglas outlined to lawmakers 200 million in deferred maintenance needs, including 60 million needed for critical safety infrastructure such as locks.

“I think that’s an issue that concerns all of us,” said attorney Steve New. “If your average West Virginian thinks that locks are broken, I can’t think of a person who would say don’t fix the locks.”

If provided in full, the budget request would cover only the cost of the broken locks.

According to New, another new development in the suit is a claim that communication is being intercepted at the jail.

“What we have learned from many of our clients since this litigation has begun is that telephone correspondence is being interfered with by the jails, written correspondence, contracts, questionnaires we believe are being taken from the inmates, trashed, or interfered with,” said New.

A CARES Act funding reimbursement was also brought up as part of the complaint. The Governor’s cabinet secretaries have recently been the subject of questions by lawmakers at the Captiol on how money requested for corrections from the federal government ended up being used for a sports stadium at Marshall University.

WVVA News has reached out to a spokesperson for the Dept. of Homeland Security for additional clarity on the issue and will share their response as soon as it is received.