MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Officials with the U.S. Bureau of Prisons confirmed to Preston County and state leaders it will not send prisoners who have tested positive for the coronavirus to the Hazelton or Gilmer federal penitentiaries.
The agency said Thursday prisoners will be tested before being transferred to the facility, which are being utilized as regional holding facilities before prisoners are transferred into the main prison population.
West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey called the announcement progress.
“While much work remains, a concrete promise from the feds to test and operate under CDC guidance and not transfer any positive testing prisoners represents a step forward,” he said. “We cannot and must not replicate the mistakes that plagued the Gilmer transfer. We must keep West Virginia safe.”
The Preston County Commission and West Virginia’s congressional delegation have also pushed for prisoners with a confirmed case of the coronavirus to not be transferred to the state.
Gov. Jim Justice sent a letter to the Bureau of Prisons requesting prisoners not to be sent to the Hazelton facility or the Gilmer prison. According to Justice’s general counsel Brian Abraham, agency director Michael Carvajal told Justice the number of prisoners being transferred nationwide has decreased and testing has increased as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“He assured the governor that they would take every precaution to protect not only the inmates but the staff that are members of the public here in West Virginia,” Abraham added. “We will continue to work with them going forward.”