WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Joe Manchin, (D-W.Va.), has received assurances from U.S. Attorney General William Barr that no more new out-of-state inmates will be transferred to FCI Gilmer or FCC Hazelton during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Many of these inmates were being transferred from COVID-19 hot spots across the country, putting the safety of our brave correctional officers and their families, citizens, and inmates at risk. I am pleased that AG Barr has heard our concerns and will be making changes that will help FCC Hazelton and FCI Gilmer slow the spread of COVID-19 in their facilities. I will continue to work with BOP officials, correctional officer representatives, and AG Barr to ensure this issue is managed correctly so no more West Virginians are put at risk.”
Barr's assurances to Sen. Manchin come at the tail end of the same week in which members of the American Federation of Government Employees Local 420 branch that represents Hazleton FCC protested the planned transfer of inmates to their prison for quarantine. Corrections officers claimed the Bureau of Prisons is spreading misinformation to justify the move.
The night of May 1, it was discovered that one of more than 100 inmates transferred earlier that week to FCI Gilmer in Glenville had tested positive for COVID-19 — the first documented case inside a federal prison in West Virginia. Both Richard Heldreth and Justin Tarovisky, respectively the president and vice president of AFGE Local 420 at FCC Hazleton confirmed at a May 2 protest
“I believe it’s very irresponsible of the Bureau of Prisons to not test those people and send us only the negatives. They should keep the issues where the issues started and not send them here to people that have to go home to their families every night...we need to step up, stand up to these people and do what’s right. This is not right,” said Preston County Commissioner Samantha Stone.
Senator Manchin’s efforts to halt these transfers are outlined below:
On the Monday after the AFGE protest near Cheat Lake, Manchin called the Bureau of Prisons' decision to transfer new out-of-state inmates to West Virginia reckless after the first positive COVID-19 case confirmed at FCI Gilmer.
On April 28, Manchin raised concerns about the transfer of new out-of-state inmates to the FCC Hazelton and FCI Gilmer facilities in West Virginia on a call with U.S. Attorney General William Barr.
On April 25, Manchin urged Attorney General Barr to immediately halt plans to send new out-of-state inmates from COVID-19 hotspot regions to FCC Hazelton and FCI Gilmer to quarantine.
On April 25, Manchin voiced opposition to the proposal to transfer new out-of-state prisoners to FCC Hazelton and FCI Gilmer to quarantine during the pandemic.