Mountain State Spotlight – West Virginians are still held in jails where conditions can be brutal, nasty and deadly.
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In just the past four years, 85 people have died in custody, more than a quarter of them at the Southern Regional Jail alone. Overcrowding has led to lawsuits that allege people are sleeping in puddles of water on concrete floors and peeing in showers due to lack of commodes. And in October, a federal judge blasted jail officials for intentionally destroying jail records that could have factored into a class action lawsuit.
After a rapid fire special session in August secured pay raises for correctional officers and money to fix basic things — like water lines and locks on cell doors — lawmakers still have a ways to go to address issues. Come January, they’ll have the opportunity to take another whack at the problem. Here’s what some experts and advocates say could help the system.