In a huge victory for AFGE District 4 and correctional officers in West Virginia, the Bureau of Prisons will no longer transfer out-of-state inmates to West Virginia.
The announcement came just days after AFGE locals in West Virginia staged a rally to protest the transfer of out-of-state inmates to BOP facilities in West Virginia during the coronavirus pandemic. Five of the transferred inmates have tested positive for the virus, confirming what the locals had feared.
According to Sen. Joe Manchin, who was one of the congressional and local leaders the AFGE locals have worked with on the issue, he received assurances from U.S. Attorney General William Barr that no more new out-of-state inmates will be transferred to FCI Gilmer or FCC Hazelton during the COVID-19 pandemic.
AFGE Vice President for District 4 Dan Doyle called this a big victory and thanked everyone who joined in the fight and stood shoulder to shoulder with our union.
“Huge congratulations go to AFGE Local 420 President Rick Heldreth and AFGE Local 425 President Derek Crihfield for going to the mat for their membership and refusing to accept half measures to solve this serious problem,” said Doyle. “This is a huge victory for correctional officers and staff at these installations.”
“We are very grateful for the news from Senator Manchin, and humbled by the support from our community, representatives and leaders,” said Heldreth. “The move to cease out of state transfers into West Virginia during this pandemic is the best possible outcome for the health of our community, staff and inmates.”
Local 420 represents correctional officers at the Federal Correctional Institution (FCI) Hazelton. Local 425 represents correctional officers at FCI Gilmer. Both institutions have been used as holding facilities before prisoners are transferred into the main prison population.
The AFGE locals worked with members of Congress and local leaders to pressure BOP to stop the transfer of out-of-state inmates into West Virginia amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Local 420 on May 2 held a rally in Morgantown, which was attended by more than 100 people, including AFGE members from other locals – 425 and 4010 (FCI Cumberland) – and union members from other unions such as AFSCME, LIUNA, AFT, Sheet Metal Workers' International Association, and the Mon-Preston Central Labor Council.
Local leaders such as West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey, Monongalia County Commissioner Tom Bloom, and Preston County Commissioner Samantha Stone were present at the rally to show their support.
President Heldreth said at the rally that the transfers of inmates during the pandemic endangered the health and safety of prison staff and the communities they live in.
Prior to the rally, the locals and AFGE District 4 worked with members of Congress to try to stop the transfers. Congressman David McKinley, Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Shelley Moore Capito, and Governor Jim Justice wrote letters of opposition to the Director of BOP. Several of these elected officials and Attorney General Morrisey also called the BOP headquarters to oppose these transfers.
AFGE President Everett Kelley also sent a letter to BOP on May 5, calling on the agency to stop transferring inmates between BOP facilities to mitigate the spread of the coronavirus outbreak.
For more information about AFGE’s response to COVID-19, visit www.afge.org/coronavirus.