Daily Press (Sunday)

W.Va. to pay $4 million in jail lawsuit


BECKLEY, W.Va. — The state of West Virginia agreed to pay $4 million to settle a class-action lawsuit filed by inmates who described conditions at a jail as inhumane, an attorney for the plaintiffs said.

Attorney Stephen New disclosed the figure Thursday to U.S. District Judge Frank Volk, who must approve the settlement. New said the amount is the highest that the state’s insurance coverage will pay, news outlets reported.

The lawsuit filed last year on behalf of current and former inmates of the Southern Regional Jail in Beaver (roughly 60 miles from the Virginia border) referenced a lack of access to water and food at the facility, as well as overcrowdi­ng and fights allowed to continue until someone was injured.

The money would be split among more than 9,000 inmates at the jail dating to September 2020. Attorneys for the defendants did not object to the settlement in court. West Virginia Homeland Security Secretary

Mark Sorsaia said in a statement that the settlement “represents the most favorable outcome for our state.”

The administra­tion of Gov. Jim Justice fired Division of Correction­s and Rehabilita­tion Executive Officer Brad Douglas and Homeland Security Chief Counsel Phil Sword last week after a federal magistrate judge cited the “intentiona­l” destructio­n of records in recommendi­ng a default judgment in the lawsuit. That followed a hearing in early October in which former and current correction­s officials, including some defendants in the lawsuit, said no steps had been taken to preserve evidence at the jail, including emails and documents.

Earlier this week, Justice’s administra­tion said it is conducting a separate internal investigat­ion to determine whether other state employees were involved in the failure to produce records.

News outlets have reported there were more than a dozen deaths at the Southern Regional Jail last year.

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