Protest held against transferring COVID-19 inmates to W.Va.

Published: May. 2, 2020 at 9:20 PM EDT
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FCC Hazelton staff and other supportive locals came together to protest against the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) plan to transfer inmates from COVID-19 infected prisons.

The BOP is planning to transfer hundreds of inmates from the DC jail system, and have already begun. Earlier this week, dozens of inmates were moved into FCI Gilmer, and as of Saturday, an inmate tested positive.

According to the press release, the inmate is doing well and no further information was available.

This becomes an issue for prisons like FCC Hazelton, which currently has no confirmed cases and holds about 4,000 inmates and over 800 staff members.

"A prison is a very hard place to contain something like this, so once it gets in there, it's difficult to keep it from spreading," the AFGE Local 420 President of FCC Hazelton, Richard Heldreth said. "I don't want our inmates getting sick, I don't want our staff getting sick and we definitely don't want to take this out into the community," he said.

State Attorney General Patrick Morrisey attended the protest to show his support.

"We're working hard, we're talking to the Bureau of Prisons and we know that it's important to make sure that you're not transferring these COVID-19 patients," Morrisey said. "Here's why, West Virginia has one the lowest incident rates in the nation. People have taken steps to do things the right way, you don't want to screw it up," he said.

Right now the only action the BOP is taking is having the inmates' temperature taken before being transported. For those protesting, this isn't enough. They believe inmates and those working should be tested at the least.

Preston County Commission President Samantha Stone spoke after Attorney General Morrisey to reiterate the importance of making sure that if inmates have to be transported, it needs to be done safely and without risks, and a big step in that is being tested.