Corrections focused on COVID-19 response at Southern Regional Jail
W.Va. – The W.Va. Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains
watchful for signs of COVID-19 at its facilities, including at the Southern
Regional Jail in Raleigh County where several cases were reported this week.
The facility had only one active case
among inmates as of Friday, after two other inmates who had tested positive
were released on furloughs. Seven employees assigned to the jail, including
contract workers, have also tested positive. They remain self-quarantined at
home, until they test negative and are medically cleared to return to duty.
Contact tracing is conducted in response to new cases and 27 COVID-19 tests are
pending at the facility – 11 for inmates and 16 for staff.
The Southern Regional Jail was included in
the enhanced testing directed by Gov. Jim Justice for all DCR facilities in
June. Nearly 630 inmates and more than 130 staff were tested at that time. All
tested negative. In accordance with DCR’s response policy for COVID-19, the
jail continues to test symptomatic individuals as well as those identified as a
close contact through contact tracing, as a prerequisite for some offsite
medical appointments, and at the recommendation of the Bureau for Public Health
and the facility’s medical provider.
Like all DCR facilities, the Southern
Regional Jail tests inmates before they are released on parole or upon completing
their sentences. All necessary notifications are provided whenever an exiting
inmate tests positive.
As per DCR’s response policy, the jail
continues to quarantine or medically isolate inmates who are newly arrived at
or returned to the jail, are symptomatic, or who otherwise await test results.
The facility had 135 inmates in isolation or quarantine as of Friday.
Such measures are not without their
challenges: the jail’s overall population was 727 on Friday. While every inmate
is issued a mattress, the facility has built-in bunks for 468. Nearly 420 of
the jail’s inmates, or 57 percent of the total, are pretrial defendants. To
address the risk posed by COVID-19 to such institutional settings as jails, the
W.Va. Supreme Court called on magistrates and circuit judges in late March to
consider personal recognizance or reduced bond for “any pre-trial individuals
who do not constitute a public safety risk.” The Southern Regional Jail’s
population now exceeds what it was when that guidance was issued.
All inmates and staff throughout DCR have
been issued cloth face coverings, made by fellow inmates through a
collaboration between Correctional Industries and the W.Va. National Guard.
Each facility has a quantity of other personal protective equipment, including
respirator masks, for staff.