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COAL CITY, WV – Following reports of dozens of people testing positive for COVID-19 at the Huntsville Correctional Center, U.S. Senate candidate Paula Jean Swearengin issued a petition imploring West Virginia Governor Jim Justice to take steps to mitigate further spread.

Prisons and correctional facilities are documented hotbeds of COVID spread. Estimates indicate more than 30,000 people — inmates and facility staff — have tested positive for COVID at correctional facilities throughout the United States. 

Until this month, West Virginia had no known cases in correctional facilities. 

“I don’t believe our correctional facilities have to suffer the same fate as those in other states,” said Swearengin, who is running for U.S. Senate to face Sen. Shelley Moore Capito. “If Gov. Justice and the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation act now, we can minimize the outbreaks in these facilities and keep inmates and staff safe.”

Swearengin’s petition calls for the DOCR to release its full COVID-19 response plan, something it has refused to do previously. The DOCR released a redacted version in April, noting the redactions were for “safety” reasons. In addition, Swearengin calls on Justice to release non-violent offenders who can be safely monitored outside facility walls.

“Gov. Justice has now ordered the testing of all 1,000-plus inmates at the Huntsville facility, but that is not enough,” said Swearengin. “Social distancing is not possible in some facilities, and it puts staff and inmates at risk. The governor has the authority to stop the spread of this virus in our correctional facilities.”

The West Virginia Democratic primary is slated for June 9, 2020.

Democrat Paula Jean Swearengin is a coal miner’s daughter and granddaughter who has been fighting for clean water, clean air and a diverse economy for the Appalachian community for decades. Swearengin is fighting for bold policies that diversify West Virginia’s economy including the Federal Jobs Guarantee, and the Reclaim Act that would renew abandoned coal towns and bring more jobs and small businesses to West Virginia. She supports federal funding and grants to rebuild and expand infrastructure, create statewide broadband and entice new industry to West Virginia.

For more information, email [email protected].

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