CHARLESTON, WV (WOAY) – The W.Va. Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation remains watchful for signs of COVID-19 at its facilities, including at the Southern Regional Jail in Raleigh County where several cases were reported this week.
The facility had only one active case among inmates as of Friday, after two other inmates who had tested positive were released on furloughs. Seven employees assigned to the jail, including contract workers, have also tested positive. They remain self-quarantined at home, until they test negative and are medically cleared to return to duty. Contact tracing is conducted in response to new cases and 27 COVID-19 tests are pending at the facility – 11 for inmates and 16 for staff.
The Southern Regional Jail was included in the enhanced testing directed by Gov. Jim Justice for all DCR facilities in June. Nearly 630 inmates and more than 130 staff were tested at that time. All tested negative. In accordance with DCR’s response policy for COVID-19, the jail continues to test symptomatic individuals as well as those identified as a close contact through contact tracing, as a prerequisite for some offsite medical appointments, and at the recommendation of the Bureau for Public Health and the facility’s medical provider.
Like all DCR facilities, the Southern Regional Jail tests inmates before they are released on parole or upon completing their sentences. All necessary notifications are provided whenever an exiting inmate tests positive.
As per DCR’s response policy, the jail continues to quarantine or medically isolate inmates who are newly arrived at or returned to the jail, are symptomatic, or who otherwise await test results. The facility had 135 inmates in isolation or quarantine as of Friday.
Such measures are not without their challenges: the jail’s overall population was 727 on Friday. While every inmate is issued a mattress, the facility has built-in bunks for 468. Nearly 420 of the jail’s inmates, or 57 percent of the total, are pretrial defendants. To address the risk posed by COVID-19 to such institutional settings as jails, the W.Va. Supreme Court called on magistrates and circuit judges in late March to consider personal recognizance or reduced bond for “any pre-trial individuals who do not constitute a public safety risk.” The Southern Regional Jail’s population now exceeds what it was when that guidance was issued.
All inmates and staff throughout DCR have been issued cloth face coverings, made by fellow inmates through a collaboration between Correctional Industries and the W.Va. National Guard. Each facility has a quantity of other personal protective equipment, including respirator masks, for staff.