CLAY, W.Va. — House of Delegates Speaker Roger Hanshaw says the decision by the federal Bureau of Prisons to make two federal prisons in West Virginia quarantine sites was an unnecessary move.
“Gilmer County had no positive cases but now we’ve introduced it, we, the government, have introduced into an environment that didn’t exist before. We just don’t think that makes any sense,” Hanshaw, who represents part of Gilmer County, said Tuesday on MetroNews “Talkline.”
FCI Gilmer and FCI Hazelton are two of the BOP’s 10 sites nationwide. They receive new prisoners in the system for a 14-day quarantine until they are placed in the general population. The BOP sent 124 prisoners to Gilmer last week and one of them tested positive for COVID-19 Friday.
Hanshaw said the BOP has essentially transferred the virus to Gilmer County.
“We think the prudent thing to do here is not to introduce a situation where we can be artificially transfer this virus into a situation where it doesn’t exist already, or at least it didn’t,” Hanshaw said.
— MetroNews (@WVMetroNews) May 5, 2020
U.S. Senator Joe Manchin called the BOP’s decision “reckless” in a statement released Monday.
“This reckless decision on the part of BOP has endangered our hardworking correctional officers and their families, the entire community and the other inmates in the facility. I have asked BOP to conduct a thorough investigation and am awaiting the results of that investigation. I hope this will deter the BOP from transferring additional out-of-state inmates to West Virginia,” Manchin siad.
Meanwhile, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, Congressman David McKinley and state Attorney General Patrick Morrisey sent a letter to U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar calling top-of-the line testing equipment be provided to both Gilmer and Hazelton prisons.
They want point-of-care machines which turn around COVID-19 test results in a matter of minutes.
“If these machines are good enough for the Senate, then they are good enough for our heroes on the actual front lines of this crisis—including our correctional guards, nurses, and staff,” the three said.
Elected officials started to raise concerns with the BOP last week after hearing from union workers at the prisons. The BOP told MetroNews Monday the inmate who tested positive at Gilmer had been screened several times before, during and after the transfer.
Hanshaw said he appreciates the difficult task the federal government has with caring for prisoners during a pandemic and even though things may not change he felt something had to be said.
“We just simply wanted to be sure, including the federal Bureau of Prisons, knew we thought there was a better alternative here.”
Delegate Terri Sypolt, R-Preston, joined Hanshaw in a Monday letter to officials.