SCRJ authorities have admitted in an article just published on ThinkProgress that they made false statements to the media about how the jail handled the water crisis. Lawrence Messina, communications director for the West Virginia Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety, acknowledged the lies in an interview with reporter Christie Thompson:
Messina said his colleague [WV Regional Jail Authority executive director] Joe DeLong “either misspoke or maybe misunderstood” when he said inmates received eight bottles of water a day, and that he understood inmates were receiving five after jail staff increased the amount.
Thompson obtained internal documents revealing that guards were instructed to provide four (and, later, five) eight-ounce bottles of water per inmate, per day — far below the 100 oz. of clean water recommended for adult men to avoid dehydration. (Inmates and a former corrections officer have reported that, despite these instructions, many were given only two or three bottles daily.) Thompson also obtained a “heavily redacted” jail log confirming that flushing of the jail’s water systems happened during only one day, not “two or three” as previously reported.
Inmate Jason Clendenin, among others told us that his goal in sharing his story was to “Make the jail tell the truth.” The state’s public acknowledgement of having lied to the media and the public is a victory for prisoners, but is only a small first step toward justice for the inmates at South Central. We demand jail authorities and staff continue confronting their inhumane response to the water crisis, and take initial necessary corrective actions.
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