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UPDATE: Group responds to WV Legislature regional jail discussions; views don't match

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UPDATE, 6:17 p.m., June 16:

Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, issued comments in response to questions about South Central Regional Jail's response to the Jan. 9 chemical leak that spoiled the drinking water for roughly 300,000 people in parts of nine southern West Virginia counties.

"After consulting various sources, jail officials were determined to provide 64 ounces of liquids daily to each inmate," Messina said in an email. "Staff fielded numerous positive remarks from inmates during and immediately after the 'Do Not Use' alert was in effect, and all available records reflect a virtual absence of complaints."

Messina said other jails shared their supplies with SCRJ and the Regional Jail Authority assisted other state agencies with bottled water.

"It is also important to note that most, if not all, of the staff at the South Central Regional Jail had no water in their homes, yet reported to duty shift after shift and went above and beyond to address the needs of inmates during the crisis," Messina said.

Messina said Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's Office of Constituent Services reported receiving two phone calls about water access for inmates, and one referenced SCRJ, but there were no details provided in the second call. Messina said the RJA Central Office received two complaints about water access for inmates, and five inmates filed "sick call slips" to report issues inmates believed to be related to the water throughout the month of January.

"The tallies for medical unit visits remain in keeping with visits before the leak," Messina said.


UPDATE, 4:45 p.m., June 16:

Members with the group “Stories from South Central WV” said Crook’s testimony at the joint interim committee hearing doesn’t match up with what inmates say happened during the water crisis.

The group also claims inmates were either not given enough clean, safe drinking water or forced to drink the contaminated water.

On its website, the group claims it formed after the chemical leak to bring attention to the mistreatment of inmates. Members say the water crisis gave them an example to branch off of, but that the mistreatment goes farther than the Jan. 9 events.

The group says it would have liked to have been informed of the interim meeting June 16, because they would have shown up at the Capitol to discuss what inmates are telling them about the truth of what happens on a daily basis.

Members of the group post handwritten letters from jail inmates on the website to bring attention to the conditions of the jail, and say multiple state officials have been covering up the mistreatment of inmates.

Original Story: 

Some questions have been raised as to how the South Central Regional Jail handled giving inmates bottled or safe drinking water during the water crisis. SCRJ was the only one affected in the chemical leak of MCHM that contaminated the drinking water supply for 300,000 residents.

Steven Crook, chief of operations for the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Authority, said the jail provided inmates with a three-day supply of water.

The West Virginia Legislature is meeting this week for June interim committee meetings.

Crook said the three-day supply is not a technical version, but based on the average population of inmates at each jail.

He said the jail was supplied with 1,500 gallons of water for cooking and hygiene purpose, provided to the inmates in the one jail affected from the chemical leak.

Crook said it may have been misconstrued that inmates were given less water, because the first day of the chemical leak they were given a half a day supply.

However, he said since the spill the regional jail authority has upped the supply of “water buffaloes,” or tanks provided in case of emergency.

He said they were also fortunate enough to get some of their water from St. Albans area, who were not affected if they were not supplied by West Virginia American Waters Company.

Crook also fielded legislators' questions about the death of an inmate at the Southern Regional Jail in Beckley.

An inmate was flown to a Charleston hospital last month after getting into an altercation with another inmate. Carlos McMillion, 51, died from injuries he suffered as a result of his fight with fellow inmate Geremy West, 21.

Lawmakers questioned whether the inmate died as a result of a delay between deciding if McMillion should be life-flighted or taken by vehicle.

Crook said he was not familiar with the situation, but commented it was an ongoing investigation and the inmate’s medical concern should always take priority.