West Virginia prison employees suspended after guard trainees photographed doing Nazi salutes in official group photo
The controversial image was made public in a state memo, showing over two dozen trainees with their arms raised in a Nazi salute.
Multiple West Virginia state correctional officers were suspended after prison guard trainees were photographed making a Nazi salute in their official group photo, according to reports.
The controversial image was made public in a state memo on Thursday, showing over two dozen trainees with their arms raised in a Nazi salute. The faces of the trainees, however, were blurred in the released photograph, which also had the words 'Hail BYRD' printed on it in a reference to the group's instructor.
A letter was sent to all employees by the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Director, Jeff Sandy, who slammed the image and the trainees' actions. Governor Jim Justice also expressed outrage at the photograph, calling for all the employees involved in the incident to be removed from their jobs.
The governor released a statement about the image, saying he "condemned it in the strongest possible terms" and added that he has directed Sandy to continue with an investigation and fire all those found to be responsible.
State officials, after the release of the image, announced that an investigation has been launched into the incident. Reports state that the image was released by the state only after a public records request was made, according to the Charleston Gazette-Mail.
The Military Affairs Director, in his letter, wrote: "It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate. It undermines the high standards that have been set for our Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation. It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees."
The controversy comes after the department has faced increased legal and public scrutiny as some correction officers have been accused of covering up wrongful deaths and sexually abusing inmates, according to the outlet.
Meanwhile, the Division of Corrections Commissioner Betsy Jividen, who also slammed the actions of the trainees, has ordered all copies of the photo to be destroyed.