Assistant Majority Leader Kessinger issues statement on Horrific DOC class photo

Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette

CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – House Assistant Majority Leader Kayla Kessinger, R-Fayette, today condemned a photo depicting a state Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation basic training class that showed participants giving a Nazi-style salute under a banner that read, “HAIL BYRD!”

“I am shocked beyond words at this outrageous photo,” Delegate Kessinger said. “As someone who has worked to build bridges with our local Jewish community, I know how harmful and offensive horrible displays like this can be, and my heart breaks for my friends who will be deeply affected by this.

“This photo is not West Virginia; these are not our values,” Delegate Kessinger said. “And to both the local Jewish community, and the world audience that will unfortunately now see this, let me be clear: We condemn this ignorant, hateful display in the strongest terms possible.

“I hope and trust Gov. Justice and Secretary Sandy will take swift action against those responsible for this reprehensible display, and extend my personal apologies on behalf of the state of West Virginia to those offended and affected by this. We are better than this.”

Since taking office, Delegate Kessinger has worked with both local Jewish leaders and national organizations to promote better understanding among Jewish and non-Jewish communities. She has promoted state-level legislation to ban the investment of funds with companies that participate in boycotts or discrimination against the nation of Israel.


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Original story:

CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — A photo of West Virginia corrections trainees was so disturbing that some employees have been suspended and the governor has ordered some to be fired — but what the image shows remains a mystery. Some say it shows the members doing a Nazi salute.

The photo is the focus of a memo that state officials made public Thursday.

The letter, sent by West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Cabinet Secretary Jeff Sandy to the agency’s Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation on Wednesday, doesn’t make clear what the image shows or how many employees have been suspended.

Sandy described the photo of Basic Training Class Number 18 as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.” He wrote that the picture “betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees.”

Republican Gov. Jim Justice issued a statement Thursday condemning the photo and ordered the firing of those involved.

“This will not be tolerated on my watch — within the Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation — or within any agency of state government,” said Justice.

Sandy has ordered all copies of the picture destroyed or taken out of circulation to prevent them from spreading. He said an investigation of the incident is ongoing.

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