Federal judge dismisses SRJ inmates’ claims against county commissions, health provider

BECKLEY, WV (WOAY) – Several claims in a lawsuit brought by inmates held at Southern Regional Jail have been dismissed by a federal judge. The lawsuit was brought by two SRJ inmates on their own behalf and others and alleged widespread violations of constitutional rights, including unlawful confinement and indifference to medical needs.

The lawsuit featured a lengthy list of defendants. Today’s ruling involves the Raleigh, Fayette, Greenbrier, Mercer, Monroe, Summers, and Wyoming County commissions and their employees, along with Wexford Health Sources.

The claims dismissed today argued that each county is responsible for furnishing everything needed for the regional jail, citing a law that was applicable when every county had it’s own jail.

However, Judge Volk found that the inmates failed to prove that the jail was acting unconstitutionally. Further, he stated that counties do not have any responsibility to own and operate regional jails.

Fayette County Prosecuting Attorney Anthony Ciliberti said his office is concerned by recent events at SRJ, but said those conditions are outside Fayette County’s control.

“The only involvement the Fayette County Commission has with the operation of the Southern Regional Jail is the monitoring of and payment of the cost for housing inmates. The West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation is solely responsible for the operation and maintenance of the Southern Regional Jail and it is our most sincere hope that the recent litigation will result in improved conditions at the Southern Regional Jail,” Ciliberti said in a statement.

The plaintiffs also argued that Wexford Health Sources “deliberately” ignored the medical needs of inmates and did not have policies in place to make sure that inmates received care. Judge Volk also dismissed these claims, saying there was no express policy held by the company that resulted in harm to inmates and that there was not enough evidence for liability.

All of those rulings were specifically “dismissal with prejudice,” meaning the claims can not be raised again. The defendants have until March 20 to appeal the “with prejudice” ruling.

The lawsuit also named Brad Douglas, former interim commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation, Jeff Sandy, former commissioner of the West Virginia Department of Homeland Security, and William K. Marshall III, the current commissioner of the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Those parties settled last November in the amount of $4 million. The money came from four separate $1 million insurance policies held by the state.

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