CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) – West Virginia families are demanding answers after saying several of their relatives have died in a Raleigh County regional jail.
A group called the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign rallied outside the West Virginia State Capitol on Friday to call for an investigation into the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver.
The group says over 100 inmates have died in custody over the last decade, including 14 in the last year alone at the Southern Regional Jail.
Kenny Matthews is one of the event organizers and says inmates are needlessly dying at alarming rates.
“Jails are overpopulated. They’re understaffed,” Matthews says. “When you mix an overpopulation with an undermanaged system, these types of events are going to happen. But it’s needless. It doesn’t have to happen.”
Family members including Miranda Smith, the daughter of a man who died in custody at the Southern Regional Jail, say their loved ones suffered from harsh living conditions and a lack of access to medical care when they need it.
“We knew from dad himself on phone calls and FaceTime with us that he had been beaten and he was badly hurt,” Smith said. “He needed medical attention and never received any help at all.”
Matthews added that he has served time in another regional jail in West Virginia and that he has personally witnessed the harsh conditions for himself.
“I’ve seen inmates get beat up, I’ve seen officers deny a person medical treatment, I’ve seen medical staff treat a person as if they’re bothering them,” Matthews said.
The rally made its way into the Capitol building, where the group delivered a petition to Governor Jim Justice’s office.
The group says over 4,000 West Virginians signed a petition to call for a federal investigation into the jail.
The families – as well as bishop William J. Barber – are asking for an investigation so they can hear the answers they’ve been waiting years for.