UPDATE (5/4/20 6:47 p.m.):

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., has released a statement on the first positive case of coronavirus at FCI Gilmer after the transfer of new out-of-state prisoners to the facility.

“When the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) announced their plans to send additional inmates to facilities in Glenville and Hazelton this was what we feared would happen. This reckless decision on the part of BOP has endangered our hardworking correctional officers and their families, the entire community and the other inmates in the facility. I have asked BOP to conduct a thorough investigation and am awaiting the results of that investigation. I hope this will deter the BOP from transferring additional out-of-state inmates to West Virginia.”

Sen. Joe Manchin

ORIGINAL STORY (5/2/20 2:26 p.m.):

United States Penitentiary Hazelton employees and community members gathered off the Pierpont Road exit in Morgantown Saturday morning to protest the transfer of prison inmates due to COVID-19.

Richard Heldreth, AFGE Local 420 President at FCC Hazleton, confirmed to 12 News that a prisoner from FCI Gilmer has tested positive for coronavirus days after inmates were transferred to the prison earlier this week. 

“We knew this was coming,” said Heldreth. “It’s just very sad that we knew we could have stopped it, the Bureau of Prisons could have stopped it. Some of our staff was on that transport, as well, so now they’re possibly affected. So, it’s horrible.”

West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey was also in attendance.

“These are the folks on the front lines, and we have to do everything imaginable to protect them,” said Morrisey. “These are not second class citizens. They are first responders. They are nurses. They’re the prison guards. They’re valuable members of the community.”

Morrisey also states he wants to make sure everyone on the front lines is being protected and taken care of.

“We’re working hard talking with the Bureau of Prisons, and we know that it’s important to make sure they’re not transferring these COVID-19 patients. And, here’s why, West Virginia has one of the lowest incident rates in the nation,” explained Morrisey.

Transfers to both prisons are currently on hold, according to Heldreth, but more prisoners could still be sent to West Virginia in the coming weeks.