Issues in West Virginia’s jail system — which have led to lawsuits alleging that inmates are subject to inhumane conditions — have been improving, correctional officials said on Tuesday, News From The States reports. Department of Homeland Security Secretary Mark Sorsaia and Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation Commissioner William Marshall spoke to lawmakers on the Legislative Oversight Committee on Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority about challenges their agencies face. The discussion comes just one month after a potential settlement was reached for one class action suit for incarcerated people at Southern Regional Jail, in Raleigh County. The 2022 complaint alleged that prisoners were denied drinking water and made to sleep in toilet water on the floor of their cells.
Those issues — and other assertions made in a broader, sweeping class action filed in August alleging that poor conditions and low staffing are pervasive in all of the state’s jails, prisons and juvenile facilities — may be a problem of the past, Sorsaia told lawmakers. “Those problems, I believe, do not exist today,” he said. “I will concede — we did have problems … [but] I haven’t seen a jail in better shape than the one I saw in Beckley [at Southern Regional Jail] in September.” The “bad publicity,” as Sorsaia called it, arose from actions and allegations that are two years old. Now, he said, the jails are clean, staffing levels are improving and work is underway to ensure that officials are keeping up and requesting aid for necessary maintenance improvements. There are 883 job vacancies in the state’s jails, Marshall said, a drop from the 950 vacancies Marshall he reported during his last presentation.