WVA Corrections Workers Suspended for Nazi Salute

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Several West Virginia state employees have been suspended after a photo emerged depicting a training class of about 30 correctional officers performing a Nazi salute, reports the Charleston Gazette-Mail. Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety Director Jeff Sandy sent a letter to all employees describing the photo as “distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive, and completely inappropriate.” The photo, on state letterhead, shows almost all of Basic Training Class No. 18 displaying the Nazi salute. Text above the photo reads: “HAIL BYRD!” (referring to the trainees’ instructor.)

The Nazi salute was used to hail Adolf Hitler, the Nazi Germany dictator who directed the slaughter of millions of Jews and others during the Holocaust. Rabbi Victor Urecki of B’nai Jacob Synagogue said, “Seeing the photo was deeply shocking and troubling to me and I know it will be devastating to not just members of my community but any person of decency. This will create difficult days and hard conversations for our state.” The state released the photo Thursday in response to a public records request. It blurred out the employees’ faces, citing employee privacy rights. The corrections agency had been under fire for accusations of correctional officers’ sexually abusing inmates and covering up wrongful deaths. Gov. Jim Justice said, “I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class #18 in the strongest possible terms.” Delegate Mike Pushkin, one of few Jewish people in the legislature, said no one in that photo has any business in a position of power over anyone as a correctional officer. “At best, this is an extreme lack of judgment for people who have a lot of power over other people’s lives,” he said. “At worst, it’s just blatant anti-Semitism, and it’s disgusting.”

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