September 29, 2022 — Beaver, WV — House of Delegates candidate Christian Martine visited Southern Regional Jail (SRJ) on Tuesday. Attorney Robert Dunlap invited Martine to participate in client intakes following the federal civil rights lawsuit filed last week.
On entering the jail, Martine observed uniformed military personnel holding administrative posts, such as checking in visitors. He later learned that military personnel were limited in the work they could do.
"Correctional administration and support staff are currently filling frontline roles, while the National Guard is being asked to fill in for administrative roles," Martine said. "National Guard soldiers – some of whom are Military Police – have the skills to work as correctional officers, but are not permitted to serve in inmate-facing posts at this time."
Martine spoke with two inmates who saw the late Alvis Shrewsbury before he was transferred from SRJ to an outside hospital. They recounted that Mr. Shrewsbury had been without food for three days due to his meal trays and commissary food purchases being stolen from him. His health continued to decline.
"The inmates said to me that they saw Mr. Shrewsbury covered in a combination of bodily fluids, including blood" Martine said. "After Mr. Shrewsbury was taken away in a wheelchair, the inmates said they were given a mop and cleaner to clean up the bodily fluids that dripped from Mr. Shrewsbury as he was wheeled from the unit."
"Based on my review of the Federal lawsuit, individual discussions with correctional officers, and individual discussions with inmates, I am confident that the conditions at Southern Regional Jail will lead to further injuries and deaths of correctional officers and inmates," Martine said.
Martine continues calling on the Governor to call a Special Session to address the staff shortage and the mistreatment allegations presented by correctional officers and inmates.
"Just like educators, police officers, and other frontline workers, correctional officers deserve to be fairly compensated," Martine said. "We need immediate action to retain correctional officers and ensure accountability measures are in place."
Martine said that the state's failure to respond to staff shortages and mistreatment allegations has meant attention has been diverted from schools, the opioid crisis, and job creation.
"If we don't address the law and order crisis in our prisons, people will die," Martine said. "Wrongful deaths leave a hole for families that money cannot fill. West Virginians will undoubtedly rack up millions of dollars in compensatory damages that could otherwise go to investing in our schools, veterans, and other critical services."