CHARLESTON, WV (WOWK) — The West Virginia Legislature is once again trying to tackle problems at the state’s prisons and jails.
The corrections system is the target of numerous lawsuits. The state has more than 1,000 vacant corrections officer positions, and that is just the start of the problem.
The Legislature’s Interim Judiciary Committee meets Monday afternoon, and lawsuits could come up.
In the latest, a female inmate at the Southern Regional Jail is suing, claiming she was beaten up by a gang of other inmates, while officers did nothing.
Other corrections facilities around the state are also being sued. They are focused on issues of understaffing due to low pay, inmates, overcrowding, and unsafe and unsanitary conditions caused by a lack of maintenance.
Gov. Jim Justice (R-WV) says improvements are underway, but critics say it’s simply not enough.
“They’re just not addressing this. And it’s a lack of funding. It’s a lack of attention. It’s a lack of placing these things as a priority. The jails are literally deadly,” said Deborah Ujevich, WV Family of Convicted People.
“We’re just going to stay right after it and there’s many ongoing projects right now in our jails and our prisons and we’re going to continue. We’re going to make a real difference, you wait and see,” said Gov. Jim Justice (R) West Virginia.
Governor Justice says he sent two corrections reform bills to the legislature in its last two sessions, but nothing got done, other than some modest pay raises. He’ll likely do it again in January, though some lawmakers want a special session now, to address the problems.
The Southern Regional Jail in Beckley is also the subject of a federal class action lawsuit, on behalf of all inmates, saying the way they are being treated is unconstitutional.