AG calls on BOP to equip prisons for testing new prisoners
Federal and state elected officials are seeking to stop or change the way the U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) handles inmate transfers to quarantine units at two federal prisons in West Virginia.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., and Congressman David B. McKinley, R-W.Va., are calling on the BOP to equip prisons at Hazelton and Gilmer County with what’s needed to test incoming prisoners.
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., requested an investigation into the transfer of a prisoner to Gilmer who tested positive for the virus. And state Dels. Terri Sypolt, R-Preton, and Roger Hanshaw, R-Clay, asked the bureau to halt transfers.
Capito, McKinley and Morrisey sent a joint letter Tuesday to Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar. They asked him to help secure “point-of-care” machines for FCI Gilmer and FCC Hazelton.
The machines, which Azar recently offered the U.S. Senate, can be used in the field and provide results in as little as five minutes, according to the letter.
“If these machines are good enough for the Senate, then they are good enough for our heroes on the actual front lines of this crisis — including our correctional guards, nurses and staff,” the officials wrote.
They, as well as Manchin and West Virginia Gov. Jim Justice, have asked the Bureau not to use West Virginia prisons as quarantine sites. Eight other prisons nationally are also being used to quarantine new prisoners.
The BOP declined to say when prisoners will begin coming to Hazelton but last week confirmed a prisoner transferred to Gilmer tested positive for the virus.
Manchin released a statement on the positive COVID-19 case, saying the result was what everyone feared would happen and endangers the officers, community and other inmates.
“I have asked BOP to conduct a thorough investigation and am awaiting the results of that investigation, Manchin said. “I hope this will deter the BOP from transferring additional out-of-state inmates to West Virginia.”
Hanshaw and Sypolt said West Virginians have done a good job of stopping the COVID-19 in the community and in prisons, and the government should be doing its part to prevent them from being exposed, too.
“We urge federal officials to reconsider this decision and help us protect our people from any additional exposure to this disease,” Hanshaw said in a news release.