On Friday, March 10, 2023, the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign will hold a mass rally demanding accountability and justice for the 100+ unexplained deaths in West Virginia state jails at the State Capitol. Families of individuals who died at Southern Regional Jail will join the National Co-Chair, Bishop William Barber II, to present a petition signed by thousands to Governor Jim Justice, calling for a full federal investigation by the Department of Justice.
The rally is being held in response to the deaths of 13 people of all races at the Southern Regional Jail in Beckley in the last year alone, and a 13-fold increase in deaths since 2018. Advocates attribute these deaths to understaffing, overcrowding, neglect, and harsh conditions in West Virginia state jails. Families of the deceased have been denied critical information about the premature passing of their loved ones and are demanding accountability, transparency, and justice.
Anna Shrewsbury, a mother who lost her son Alvis Shrewsbury in Southern Regional Jail after only 19 days, says, “Our family, and the people of West Virginia, deserve answers. We have been pushed aside, our son’s name forgotten by the very people who were supposed to protect him. We demand accountability, transparency and an immediate investigation into Southern Regional Jail. As a mother, I refuse to stand by and allow this to happen to anyone else.”
Kimberly Burks, whose son Quantez Burks died at Southern Regional Jail shortly after his arrival, adds, “In the private autopsy report that we had done, findings were consistent with being handcuffed while being beaten. Both of his wrists were broken, he had an arm broken, nose broken, and a leg bone broken.” She also says that they have not heard anything from the state regarding an investigation into the nature of his death.
The West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign demands a full, independent federal investigation into the conditions of West Virginia’s jails so that grieving families can get the answers, and justice, they deserve. “Equal protection under the law is not a suggestion or opinion. It’s a right. We cannot be silent while poor West Virginians of all races die under the watch of state jails, totaling hundreds over the years. West Virginia officials cannot continue to drag their feet on this urgent matter,” said Rev. William J. Barber II, co-chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival.
The mass rally will be attended by impacted families and advocates of all races. Also present will be the West Virginia Poor People’s Campaign State Chairs, Pam Garrison and Stewart Acuff, and the Co-Chair of the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis.
The rally will take place at the West Virginia Capitol Building front steps in Charleston, West Virginia, at 11:00 AM EST. The event is open to the public, and attendees are encouraged to RSVP here.
Meet the families that are taking action in this video.