CHARLESTON, WV (WVNS) — West Virginia Governor Jim Justice has appointed Dr. Ayne Amjad as the state’s Director of Correctional Health Care for the West Virginia Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
Justice made the announcement during his press briefing on Tuesday, January 24, 2023. Amjad was also named an Assistant Professor of Medicine at the Marshall University Joan C. Edwards School of Medicine.
Amjad will oversee health care in the state’s correctional facilities, including Southern Regional Jail in her home county, Raleigh County. The position changes the level of oversight of the state’s privatized jail health system, which is currently contracted to Wexford Health.
Dr. Amjad will partner with Wexford Health to oversee medical care in state correctional facilities.
The American Civil Liberties Union of West Virginia ranked the state’s jails among the deadliest in the nation, based on data from Reuters and West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.
ACLU-WV has called on policymakers to increase alternatives to incarcerations, to deliver better mental health care, including substance abuse care, to increase staff responsiveness to the needs of incarcerated people during their first month of entering the jails and to hire independent, outside investigators to explore every jail death in the state.
Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County is currently the focus of a federal investigation.
ACLU-WV has also called on lawmakers to give higher pay to corrections officers and to ensure better working conditions and training.
Amjad, a Beckley physician, served as West Virginia Health Officer from July 2020 until September. She resigned as health officer and commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources’ Bureau of Public Health but continued to serve in a contracted advisory role on public health to Justice.
In August, Gov. Justice declared a state of emergency in the jails, which has allowed West Virginia National Guard members to fill in as corrections officers. State officials have said the situation cannot be sustained.
Corrections officers positions in the state regional jail system is at a 33% vacancy rate, and guards regularly work 12 to 16-hour shifts, acting West Virginia Corrections Commissioner Brad Douglas told the House Jails and Prisons Committee at the West Virginia Legislature on January 19, 2023.