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W.Va. regional jail system responds to FOIA request on water issues

April 10, 2022

A paralegal for wvva news the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation has responded to a request for correspondence and communication related to the provision of water to inmates and related complaints in the regional jail system.

WVVA News made the request after former inmates, family of inmates, and staff members at Southern Regional Jail reported water issues at the facility. Many of those complaints came from the quarantine section of the jail, where a Dept. of Homeland Security spokesperson previously denied any inmates were being restricted from accessing water. Two correctional officers during the Pandemic have since backed up the claim, saying there were no water or juice coolers in the quarantine section of the jail, making it difficult for staff to hand deliver water to all of the inmates in that particular section. wvva news

An officer inside the facility said the situation has since been rectified with an officer specifically designated for that particular section.

Other water issues at SRJ have also been reported to WVVA News, including toilets flooding in multiple pods and inmates forced to sleep on mats soaked in water.

In response to WVVA’s FOIA request for documentation related to provision of water to inmates and related complaints, the state provided roughly 500 pages, including multiple complaints at different locations as well as extensive documentation on efforts each facility took to rectify those issues. When it came to SRJ, the jail provided a single page saying “We are not aware of any concerns regarding this request other than the recent news article. If something becomes available, we will forward to you.”

A Beckley attorney, Robert Dunlap, who represents multiple clients at the jail responded to their report on Thursday, saying he has heard from multiple clients confirming water issues at the facility. wvva news

“When you hear a story so many times that’s identical, you have a tendency to believe it. So many inmates have told me about how their pod has working toilets, across the way it doesn’t. They say I flush my commode on my side, my urine and feces come up in the pod across the way. That wouldn’t be the worst of things if we weren’t also dealing with overcrowding, having some sleeping in bunks and other sleeping on foam mattresses on the floor. What does a foam mattress do when it’s soaked in bodily fluid? It becomes uninhabitable.”

Dunlap went on “I have one inmate in her pod say explicitly say the water in her pod was working but across the way it was not. A female said she was in there a number of days without water and resorted to toilet water simply to sustain life.”

At last check, the Dept. of Homeland Security’s investigation into conditions at SRJ was still ongoing.

WVVA News will continue to monitor developments with this story closely and will release the results of that probe once they are made available.

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