West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign hopeful after meeting with Department of Justice about our jails

The West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign and Mountain State families have been on a two-and-a-half-year journey.

They’re finally being heard with a recent Department of Justice meeting in Washington, DC to let them know the horrors going on in our West Virginia jail system.

They took five families from all over the state, a mother (Kimberly Burks) who lost her son in Southern Regional Jail, and a sister who lost her brother.

“We took a daughter who lost her dad. We took a formerly incarcerated woman to tell about how horribly the women were treated,” said tri-chair Pam Garrison. “We took a formerly incarcerated gentleman that witnessed a horrible misery, the death of another inmate.”

She says the lack of medical care, lack of caring, and lack of humanity in our jails is a travesty. Instead of admitting and addressing the issues — head of corrections and rehabilitation William Marshall calls them liars and disgruntled families.

“Reason we went to the DOJ, we cannot get justice in West Virginia — nothing,” Garrison said. “It’s not even acknowledged by our Department of Justice. Gave me hope that maybe change will come.”

They are asking the DOJ to put West Virginia on the list of states to be investigated.

“We’ve asked for the medical examiners to be investigated,” the activist said. “Way too many natural causes, the same thing they put on Quantez Burks’ autopsy — and he had broken bones from head to toe.”

According to Garrison, Marshall was one of the four administrators found guilty of destroying evidence — i.e., all the grievances folks made against the jails. She says the judge even told them he did not believe it was accidental.

“You should be held accountable when you keep contributing, contributing to that problem without no solutions, without even an acknowledgment that there is a problem,” she said they have blood on their hands.

There’s an overcrowding problem, a shortage of officers and Garrison says the endless deaths don’t seem to matter to those in power positions. But who are they to play God.

“And decide who lives and dies, who is worthy,” she said.

West Virginians have been sacrificed to coal companies, Garrison says.

“Blowing our mountains off, poisoning our streams, leaking chemicals into our waters,” said the activist. “I mean, it’s like West Virginians — they just act like we just don’t matter. We’re expendable.”

Forward Justice and WVPPC lawyers were blown away by the DOJ giving them another meeting. That just doesn’t happen.

“That gives me hope, that the spotlight will really get put on this to where people will be held accountable,” Garrison said.

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