Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ACLU Sues Jail over Water Crisis Response

Newspaper article Charleston Gazette Mail

ACLU Sues Jail over Water Crisis Response

Article excerpt

A lawsuit alleges that during the 2014 water crisis some inmates at South Central Regional Jail were so desperate for water they tried to drink from toilets. Many more allegations about how the West Virginia Regional Jail and Correctional Facility Authority handled the water crisis are made in a lawsuit filed this week in federal court in Charleston by the West Virginia Chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of inmates at South Central between Jan. 9 and 14, 2014 - a time when thousands in the area were told not to use water for anything but flushing toilets and fighting fires.

Lawrence Messina, spokesman for the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, has continuously defended allegations about how inmates were treated at South Central. Officers and other jail staff worked overtime during the water crisis, he has said. On Friday, Messina reiterated that during the water crisis the Regional Jail's central office received two complaints.

"I was in the thick of communication about the response to the state of emergency, and in my position, I would've been aware if folks were raising issues at South Central and that just wasn't the case, Messina said.

Jamie Lynn Crofts, legal director for the ACLU in Charleston, said that numerous inmates told her they were scared to file grievances with the jail.

"Most of them felt it would be futile, Crofts said. "They had been speaking to guards and other officials requesting more water and being told the entire time there was nothing they could do.

Crofts said that in addition to interviews with inmates, the ACLU reviewed hundreds of pages of documents through the Freedom of Information Act as the basis of the allegations in the complaint. In addition to the state Regional Jail Authority, the lawsuit also names as defendants, the state Division of Corrections, Craig Adkins, the former administrator of the regional jails, and David A. Farmer, executive director of the state Regional Jails.

The lawsuit cites guidelines about the adequate intake volume of water per day for adult men and women from the Institute of Medicine. Men, ages 19 and older, is 3.7 liters, or 125 ounces, and women, the guidelines state the intake volume per day is 2.7 liters or approximately 91 ounces. The guidelines state that moisture in food consumption generally accounts for about 20 percent of total water intake.

"This means that, even by the most generous estimates, male inmates were given 40 percent of their daily adequate amount of water, and female inmates were given 55 percent of their daily adequate amount of water, the lawsuit states.

Messina previously provided the Gazette-Mail with information about how water was distributed to inmates. On Jan. 9, each inmate was given 8 ounces of water after dinner and before lockdown, he said. …

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