HAZELTON — Governor Jim Justice, Sen. Joe Manchin and Con. David McKinley are asking the federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) to reconsider its decision to use FCC Hazelton as a quarantine location for inmates.
The proposal is also opposed by the union which represents prison workers.
Justice said, “While I surely understand the need to transfer prisoners from time to time, now — in the midst of this pandemic– seems unwise and unnecessary.” He goes on to note West Virginia has taken “a great many measures” to keep the number of COVID-19 cases and deaths low.
Forcing prison employees to congregate with “potentially infected” people from areas where the virus is more common is “an unnecessary and unreasonable risk” to the community, Justice said.
Local 420 of the American Federation of Government Employees said in a news release they believe the prisoners will come from Washington, D.C., where the jail has been hard hit by the pandemic. A BOP spokesman said several facilities have been designated quarantine locations.
Newly admitted inmates will be screened, their temperatures checked daily and, if one shows symptoms for COVID-19, placed in a single cell in an isolation unit and monitored and managed consistent with CDC guidelines. After completing quarantine the inmates will be moved to another institution, the spokesman said.
On Saturday, Manchin, D-W.Va., asked the Bureau to reconsider using Hazelton and FCI Gilmer for quarantine.
“West Virginians have buckled down and closely followed state and federal guidelines to prevent the spread of COVID-19 here in the Mountain State, and that’s why I am strongly opposing the transfer of out of state prisoners to West Virginia,” Manchin said.
“I am deeply troubled by plans the Bureau of Prisons are considering to transport new inmates from COVID-19 hotspot regions of the country to West Virginia for quarantine. This move puts our already vulnerable population and our correctional officers and their families at greater risk of exposure to COVID-19.”
McKinley, R-W.Va., said “Inmates will be transferred from jails in Washington, D.C., where there has been a confirmed outbreak, to FCC Hazelton, where there has not been a single confirmed case. This is an irresponsible decision that will put the health of the inmates and staff at Hazelton at risk. I vehemently oppose this plan and urge you to reconsider.”
It puts the whole community at risk, he said.