Southern Regional Jail reports 13th death so far this year

BECKLEY, WV (WVVA News) By Annie Moore – Another inmate death was reported at Southern Regional Jail on Friday.

According to Steve New, an attorney for her family, Kimberly Gilley of Mercer County died in early December after being booked at Southern Regional Jail on a probation violation.

A spokesperson for the Department of Homeland Security also confirmed on Friday the death is under investigation by the West Virginia State Police.

New said he went to the hospital on the day Gilley was brought to Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital unresponsive. He said he was told by witnesses that she was attacked by other inmates shortly after her arrival at the jail on November 14, 2022.

“They attacked her and began digging into her private areas to see if she had smuggled drugs.”

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While the timeline of events isn’t exactly clear yet, he said she was initially taken to Raleigh General Hospital, but was at some point returned to the jail. He said she was later brought to Beckley Appalachian Regional Hospital. When she arrived, he said she was unresponsive and on life support.

New said Gilley was only in the jail on a probation violation for shoplifting. “In the grand scheme of things, it was a relatively minor offense…certainly not one that carried the death penalty.”

Gilley is the 13th inmate at Southern Regional Jail to die this year — a 13-fold increase in deaths at the facility since 2018. Earlier this year, Governor Jim Justice, (R) West Virginia, called in the National Guard to address staffing vacancies statewide. Then, in October, the Dept. of Homeland Security announced that a federal investigation was underway into Southern Regional Jail, specifically.

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Still, New believes more steps are needed to stem the jail’s rising death toll.

“I appreciate what Governor Justice said, that some within his own administration may not want to look within their own house and acknowledge shortcomings, but we need more leadership from the Governor’s office and more money from the legislature to give these COs raises. Acting Commissioner Douglas said last week the COs are still working 60 to 80 hours a week….that’s unsustainable.”

Meanwhile, the deadline for the state to respond to a federal class action civil rights lawsuit on behalf of hundreds of inmates regarding inhumane living conditions at the jail is set for next week.

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