West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign rally for justice after more deaths at Southern Regional Jail

West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign held a rally this past weekend to protest more people dying in the Southern Regional Jail… and the severity of the crisis has reached feverish proportions.

Pam Garrison says neither our legislature nor governor will take this seriously and people contact her terrified if they end up in SRJ they won’t make it out.

“They’ve got this attitude with people that are arrested like they’re trash — and they can just take us and do anything they want and they’re not held accountable,” Garrison said. “They don’t have to communicate with the families, they don’t have to give them their civil rights. There’s no accountability, there’s no oversight — and there’s vigilante justice (as we’ve seen with the eight officers indicted and two have pled guilty).”

In the past few months there have been even more deaths in the Southern Regional Jail, and the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign will stop at nothing to make sure that they’re not only heard but that urgent change prevails.

According to Garrison, Correctional Commissioner William Marshall calls them liars and says they’re exaggerating. But where’s their evidence, she wants to know.

“We’ve got families, witnesses, graves — documents to prove what we’re saying is true. They destroyed theirs… that’s why they had to dish out $4 million,” said Garrison. “But that’s not solving our problems; we need legislation down there to address this overcrowding, besides the excessive sentences and excessive charges.”

Rev. William Barber announced at their recent rally when he gets back he will connect with Forward Justice and the West Virginia Poor People’s campaign to file a new letter asking the Department of Justice to investigate West Virginia jails and prisons.

“There’s a lot with these medical examiners that’s not making sense to us… like Quantez Burks’ autopsy said he had heart disease, he died of a heart attack. There was no mention of no broken bones, nothing,” Garrison said. “Why and what is going on here in West Virginia because something stinks from head to toe, every which way — there’s coverups.”

Garrison says 40 percent of those in jail are pretrial — just sitting there because they’re poor, and that’s unconstitutional. She says most of the charges are misdemeanors. She’s even seen extra charges tacked on to make it a felony to where the state would have to pay for the cost.

“Thirteen deaths in Southern Regional Jail in 2022, this last year in 2023 there was I believe six… and this year we’ve started out with the one; so it’s just a pattern every year,” said Garrison. “And over the past ten years over 100 West Virginians have been killed in the jails. That’s worse than Riker’s Island.”

If they can’t do any better than this Garrison says they need to shut down the jail and come up with a new system — also, stop acting like God and up to them to choose if people live or die. She adds that she’s not proud of what this administration and legislators have done to her state.

“I love West Virginia, my mountains and I’ll fight for ’em, and I’ll fight for my people. I’m tired of them getting killed and treated like they don’t matter,” Garrison said. “We do matter, this is our state and it’s time we took it back.”

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