Entrance sign to the Federal Correctional Complex (FCC), operated by the U.S. Department of Justice’s Federal Bureau of Prisons, that includes both the United States Penitentiary, Hazelton (USP Hazelton) and the Federal Correctional Institution, Hazelton (FCI Hazelton) on June 4, 2023. (John M. Chase | Getty Images)
West Virginia senators Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin are calling for an investigation into a federal prison in West Virginia.
The senators, along with Senators Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) wrote a letter to U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco and Federal Bureau of Prisons Director Colette Peters calling for an investigation into whistleblower allegations of inmate abuse and other employee misconduct at Federal Corrections Complex Hazelton in Bruceton Mills.
According to the letter, the allegations include:
- Staff releasing the wrong prisoner.
- Inmates escaping from the prison camp and supervisory staff attempting to cover it up.
- Supervisory staff at FCC Hazelton falsifying documents, encouraging inmate abuse, and covering up alleged abuse and escapes of incarcerated individuals.
- A staff member punching an incarcerated individual on camera.
- Staff members punishing inmates using restrictive housing.
- Staff using racial slurs against minorities toward other staff members and incarcerated individuals.
- Staff members urinating on prisoner property.
- Staff forcing incarcerated individuals to urinate and defecate on themselves as a condition of being released from restrictive custody.
- Staff assaults and beatings of prisoners.
“These reports, combined with public reporting on FCC Hazelton’s dire staffing shortages and proliferation of weapons contraband, paint a grim picture of the institution’s inability to ensure a safe environment for those in BOP custody and employees alike,” the senators wrote in the letter dated Tuesday.
“If these allegations are true and accurate, they reflect a rampant culture of abuse and misconduct at FCC Hazelton,” the senators wrote. “We request that you conduct a full investigation of employee misconduct at FCC Hazelton facilities, including interviews of individuals incarcerated in SHU about these allegations.”
The complex includes United States Penitentiary Hazelton, a high security facility for male prisoners, and Federal Correctional Institution Hazelton, a medium security correctional institution with a secure female facility.
United States Penitentiary Hazelton gained notoriety after mob boss Whitey Bulger was murdered there in 2018. The prison has the most acute corrections officer shortage of any federal prison facility, according to reporting earlier this year by USA Today.
In May, two guards at the prison were indicted on civil rights violations for allegedly striking an inmate in the face, head, arms and torso, causing significant injuries, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, Northern District of West Virginia.
The senators go on to request that no taxpayer money be used to identify or retaliate against the whistleblowers and that the anonymity of individuals interviewed be maintained and request a number of documents related to the alleged misconduct no later than Oct. 3.
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