KINGWOOD — West Virginia’s Congressional representatives say they are aware of possible COVID-19 problems cited by federal prison workers and working toward a resolution.
Workers at federal prisons in Hazelton say the U.S. Marshals Service is ignoring U.S. Bureau of Prisons (BOP) protocols on prisoner quarantines and transfers, endangering staff, inmates and the community.
Earlier this year, local opposition communicated to West Virginia’s senators and congressman led to U.S. Attorney General William Barr promising no new out-of-state inmates would be transferred to West Virginia at the time.
“I strongly fought to ensure no transfers occurred within the BOP system for as long as was feasible,” U.S. Sen. Shelley Moore Capito, R-W.Va., said Monday. “I believe that the U.S. Marshals Service should use the same standards and practices that the BOP uses if and when a prisoner needs to be transferred and done only when absolutely necessary if at all.”
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., who obtained the original promise from Barr, was also troubled.
“Reports that U.S. Marshals are transferring inmates to West Virginia prisons without proper testing and quarantine procedures in place is very troubling and puts the safety of our brave correctional officers and their families, citizens and inmates at risk,” Manchin said Monday. “We are still in the midst of a pandemic.”
He noted that over the weekend, “10 West Virginians died from the virus, 130 inmates tested positive at Mount Olive state correctional facility, and the state reached 10,000 confirmed positive cases.”
That, Manchin said, is “why the U.S. Marshals Service should not move any inmate that wasn’t tested. I am working with the U.S. Marshals to ensure that each inmate is properly tested, not just screened, for COVID-19 before they enter a BOP facility.”
U.S. Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va., said Monday that, “From the very beginning of the pandemic we have worked with Bureau of Prisons and our corrections officers to stop prisoner movements into Hazelton and thus avoid outbreaks that have plagued other prisons across the country.”
“Transferring prisoners without adequate testing and quarantine protocols puts the health and safety of inmates, correctional officers, their families and the entire surrounding community at risk. We will continue to work with the BOP and U.S. Marshals Service to ensure the safety of Hazelton and the surrounding community,” McKinley said.