Emily Rice Published

Advocates Call For Sweeping Reform In W.Va.’s Jail System

A correctional officer's arm is shown locking a jail door to an adjoining hallway. The officer is wearing a black long sleeve shirt.Adobe Stock

Following the indictment of six former correctional officers in the beating death of Quantez Burks and the death of an additional inmate at Southern Regional Jail, families will join the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign (WVPPC) to challenge the state legislature, governor and West Virginia’s U.S. Senators at a press conference Saturday morning.

At 11 a.m. Repairers of the Breach President Bishop William J. Barber II, Forward Justice, clergy and community supporters will gather in the lower rotunda of the Capitol to call for a full federal investigation into local prisons by the Department of Justice.

Pam Garrison, one of the Chairs of the WVPPC said recent legislative measures aren’t even a Band-Aid to the problems within the system.

“They always get the little guys, the little guys are the ones who always pay the price,” Garrison said. “But the ones who are, who have instigated, who have put these policies in that has the lack of policy, the lack of oversight, the lack of accountability, that lies down Charleston.”

Advocates claim that in the past five years, at least 25 people have died at the Southern Regional Jail alone, with inmates reporting chronic understaffing, overcrowding and neglect. This claim is backed up by reporting from Mountain State Spotlight.

There were 13 reported deaths at the Southern Regional Jail in 2022, and more than 100 deaths in the state’s regional jail system in the past decade.

“They put them in jail or they charge them with something like they’re trash, like they don’t matter, like they can just do anything to them,” Garrison said. “Well, I got news for them. They’ve got families and they got rights.”