Attorneys to file federal suit on behalf of 150 inmates over conditions at Southern Regional Jail
BEAVER, W.Va. (WVVA) - 150 inmates and multiple correctional officers have signed on to be part of a federal lawsuit taking aim at the state over conditions at Southern Regional Jail.
As required by federal law, three attorneys, Tim Lupardus, Steve New, and Zach Whitten, gave the state 30 days notice of their intent to file the suit on July 26th.
“The people who are saying, this isn’t a big deal, they’re going to sit back and say this is outrageous,” said Whitten.
The attorneys said they have proof of inadequate living conditions, unchecked gang activity, and inmates being repeatedly attacked by one another. They said the attacks are happening due to broken cell doors and emergency call buttons that either don’t work or are not getting a response.
New said the legal team has at least four different Correctional Officers who will back up those claims.
“When COs, who have sworn an oath to uphold the state and federal constitutions, come forth with photographs, videos, and emails, and they’re willing to sign affidavits saying these were and have been the conditions at Southern Regional Jail and upper management have known about these conditions and done nothing -- that’s going to be incontrovertible evidence.”
Lupardus said the complaints were met with punishment for inmates who voiced concerns. “When they try to report the conditions, they wind up cut off from loved ones. Kioks are shutdown and phone rights are taken away.”
In March, after WVVA News’ reporting on the issues, Gov. Jim Justice called for a special investigation into conditions at the jail. It was led by Dept. of Homeland Security Sec. Jeff Sandy; the same department responsible for the jail’s oversight. The final report concluded that allegations of inmates being mistreated were false, saying the inmates conspired to deceive family members and the press.
“The themes like that which repeat, those inmates aren’t lying. The women who first started this process didn’t lie. Their bruises didn’t lie. And their battered faces did not lie,” said Lupardus.
The attorneys said they are seeking justice. But more than justice, they want to see a change in the system.
“If the public actually sees what’s happening in our jails, I think there will be an outcry,” said Lupardus.
WVVA News reached out to the West Virginia Regional Jail System for a comment on the suit and will share the agency’s response as soon as it is received.
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