BECKLEY, W.V. (WVDN) – West Virginia has agreed to pay $4 million to settle a class action lawsuit alleging inhuman conditions and improper treatment at Southern Regional Jail, lawyers told a federal judge during a hearing in Beckley on Thursday afternoon.
“There’s still much work to be done,” Stephen New, a lawyer who brought the case against the state, said after the status hearing held in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of West Virginia.
The proposed settlement comes less than two weeks after a magistrate judge recommended U.S. District Judge Frank Volk rule against the state for intentionally destroying evidence, including investigations, emails between jail officials and grievances filed by those incarcerated. Volk had not ruled on the recommendation at the time of the settlement.
New said that the settlement was agreed only with the state, not with the counties, Wexford Health Sources or PrimeCare Medical of West Virginia, the medical care providers at the jail.
The multimillion-dollar settlement still needs to be approved by the court.
Plaintiffs Michael Rose and Edward Harmon are suing on behalf of themselves and others at the jail, saying they were exposed to black mold, given moldy food, rotten or spoiled milk and kept in dark cells for extended periods of time.
Rose and Harmon are also alleged they were both assaulted during their time at SRJ because of poor security measures at the jail, including failure to keep cell doors locked and overcrowding.
Last year, 13 people died at Southern Regional Jail and several high-ranking officials named in the class action lawsuit have since resigned or retired. Earlier this month, two corrections officers pleaded guilty to federal charges for their roles in one of the deaths.
At Thursday’s hearing, New told the court there are still 1,983 outstanding claims against the jail, the county and the medical care providers for unconstitutional conditions at the facility.
When asked by Volk if he continues to pursue the case against the facility, the county and the jail’s medical providers, New said “absolutely, I look forward to it.”
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