BECKLEY, WV (LOOTPRESS) – Additional information emerged Monday regarding conditions endured by offenders housed at Southern Regional Jail following allegations of inhumane treatment of inmates, overcrowding, and unsanitary conditions recently directed at the facility.
As revealed by New, Taylor & Associates founding partner Stephen New in a briefing Monday morning, the Beckley firm is undergoing the process of questioning results of the State Medical Examiner’s Office with regard to multiple inmate autopsies indicating natural causes of death.
According to New, eyewitness accounts indicate that the causes of death in many of these situations were in fact not natural, and that multiple avenues are under consideration as a means of determining the truth causes including private autopsies and tissue sample reevaluation.
“I’m not saying that the medical examiner’s office is in cahoots with anybody, but I’m not not saying that either,” New declared, heavily implying a potential cover-up operation in the works.
New further asserted that inmates were swayed by assurance that they would be rewarded for their cooperation in deterring, what at the time was, an active investigation being conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.
“We know for a fact that higher ups in the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation bribed inmates for favorable statements during the sham investigation that was done last year by the Department of Homeland Security,” he said, dismissing the investigation itself as fraudulent and imploring the US Attorney for the Southern West Virginia district, Will S. Thompson to take action with regard to the matter.
“There were promises of favorable treatment, and I’m calling on the United States Attorney, Will Thompson, the US Attorney for the Southern District of West Virginia, to expand his office’s investigation into the sham investigation by the Department of Homeland Security.”
While New chose not to reveal the specific administration responsible for the bribes in question, he doubled down on his criticism of the Department of Homeland Security, stating, “I have zero faith in the Department of Homeland Security and whatever investigation findings or conclusions that it may arrive at.”
It was also stated that the alleged disposal of pertinent evidence by the facility is another matter that the firm intends to address.
“We have reason to believe that documents are being shredded at Southern Regional Jail,” said New. “When we confirm that, we plan to seek an injunction against state of West Virginia to stop the destruction of any evidence.”
Present at the briefing were family members of inmates who had lost their lives while in custody at Southern Regional Jail, including Quantez Burks, KIimberly Gilly, and Alvis Shrewsbury.
Shrewsbury, a 45-year-old Wyoming County man, turned himself in on August 29, 2022, on a Driving Under the Influence charge. As exhibited in a mugshot taken at the outset of Shrewsbury’s stay at Southern Regional Jail – a physical copy to which New referred during the briefing – Shrewbury’s physical condition could be described as more-or-less unremarkable.
However, his condition began to rapidly deteriorate over the course of his brief stay at the facility. Family members began to notice significant changes in Shrewsbury’s appearance during video call interactions which took place during his incarceration.
“He’s beaten; he’s starved; he’s dehydrated,” said New, directing attention to a screenshot of one such call during which Shrewsbury’s face is seen to exhibit substantial swelling and bruising consistent with a physical attack.
“He told a nurse he thought his ribs were broken [and that] e needed medical treatment. She laughed at him and said ‘there’s nothing wrong with you,'” New continued. “Alvis Shrewsbury’s lawsuit was filed last week, and we absolutely intend to hold those wrongdoers fully accountable.”
Though Shrewsbury’s sentence was to be six months, he left Southern Regional Jail after only 19 of incarceration to be transferred to Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital where he would die shortly after.
Kimberly Burks – the mother of Quantez Burks, yet another individual to lose their lives under questionable circumstances at Southern Regional Jail – has been in hot pursuit of justice with regard to her son’s passing for some time. She even raised the issue to Governor Jim Justice at a recent Town Hall meeting hosted by the Governor, to which he referred to the aforementioned investigation conducted by the Department of Homeland Security.
“I hope that it doesn’t happen to another family because it is the worst feeling in the world to know that your child is beaten with no answers, no reason why,” Burks said on Monday, insisting that she simply wanted answers and justice.
“Why? Why? That’s my question now, is ‘why?’ I don’t understand it. I don’t know what my son could have done in a matter of an hour and a half to be beaten like he was beaten, and I just pray that it all comes together in the end. This is unacceptable and it has to stop happening.”
Quantez Burks was 37 years old when he was arrested by the Beckley Police Department on February 28, 2022, for Wanton Endangerment and Obstruction. He was transported to Southern Regional Jail and on March 1, 2022, less than 24 hours after his arrest, Quantez Burks was dead. Though the official cause of death is purportedly listed as “heart attack,” Burks’ family insists that his passing was the result of blunt force trauma incurred during a beating at the facility.
“We have got to put an end to it now and hold these people accountable,” Mrs. Burks continued. “If it means the Governor, the Senators, the Police Department, the CO’s, the wardens; they need to be held accountable for what they did to my family and the Shrewsbury family, as well as the other families.”
New revealed that his firm had been working with Troy Carter, a former Corrections Officer at Southern Regional Jail who made the decision to speak up with regard to the substandard conditions found within the facilities. However, when Carter – a military veteran – attempted to utilize the chain of command to address these issues, he was met with what legal experts are calling retaliatory action in the form of a suspension.
An employee of Southern Regional Jail for nearly two years during the period from October 2020 to September 2022, Carter says he felt a moral obligation to pursue justice based in no small part on an oath he took during his time in the service.
“I served in the military, and I took an oath to defend the constitution from enemies both foreign and domestic. So, I couldn’t hold myself to some kind of standard where I went over to a foreign country and upheld that and treated people that weren’t my citizens, that weren’t my countrymen, in a in a higher manner than I was seeing my countrymen being treated,” Carter said.
As such, he began to document the conditions in which inmates were living and officers were working by taking photos and video.
“There were full on sections that had no doors that worked at all,” Carter said, referring to the issue of faulty locking mechanisms throughout Southern Regional Jail – an issue which essentially jeopardizes the sanctity of the Prison Rape Elimination Act, or PREA. This is merely one variable on the scheme of what New called 250 to 300 million dollars in deferred maintenance at the facility, $30 million of which pertained to locking mechanisms alone.
Southern Regional Jail was reportedly designed to house between 400 and 500 inmates at any given time, though Carter advises in his own experience that the minimum number of inmates housed at SRJ is nearly double that amount.
“I never saw anything less than about 750,” he said when asked about the number of inmates he’d generally observed at the facility during his time as an employee, a statistic which, according to New, is corroborated by federal data which indicates an average of over 700. He also made reference to many instances of inmates being forced to sleep on the floor due to overcrowding and lack of supplies, as well as inmates’ medication regimens being turned upside down due to inadequate staffing and officer availability.
“We send our family members to this place where you would not kennel your pets,” said Robert Dunlap, who is serving as co-council with regard to this litigation.
“I think that’s the most important thing: for us to want better for our fellow humans whether they made a mistake, whether they’re accused of a crime – The bottom line is nobody should be treated this way. It’s absolutely a time where we all need to step up and care about those who have no voice in this situation.”
“We absolutely stand in solidarity with these families, the families of others who have lost loved ones in jails in West Virginia this year, and we stand in solidarity with those who are behind bars in substandard, unconstitutional conditions,” declared New.
“Change needs to happen,” he continued. “It can either happen as a result of legislation, or it’s going to happen as the result of litigation. Either way, it’s going to happen.”
Litigation against Southern Regional Jail, Wexford Medical, PrimeCare Medical, and related entities is current underway, with future litigation expected to be filed. Russell A. Williams of New, Taylor & Associates revealed on Monday that hundreds of clients are involved in the class action lawsuit, with these numbers expected to expand moving forward.
“We’ve got close to 1000 clients signed up already, collectively amongst several law firms, and we expect the number to grow,” he said.