West Virginia prison staff suspended over Nazi salute

image copyrightWest Virginia Department of Military Affairs
image captionSeveral employees have already been suspended

Several US prison employees have been suspended after a photo emerged showing training class participants giving what appears to be a Nazi salute.

The image shows employees at the West Virginia Division of Corrections and Rehabilitation making the gesture below a sign that reads "Hail Byrd!", referring to a class instructor.

State Governor Jim Justice has called for the employees to be fired.

Officials have also informed faith and community leaders about the photo.

What do we know about the photo?

It shows around 30 blurred faces and appears to have been recently shot for the state's "Basic Training Class #18". The photo does not include names of the employees and the location is not known.

The class reportedly took place from 21 October to 27 November.

The text referred to a class leader, the state Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety said.

What has the reaction been?

"I condemn the photo of Basic Training Class #18 in the strongest possible terms," Governor Jim Justice told The Washington Post.

"I have directed Secretary Jeff Sandy of the Department of Military Affairs and Public Safety to continue actively investigating this incident, and I have ordered the termination of all those that are found to be involved in this conduct."

In a letter to employees at the facility, Mr Sandy said that several people had already been suspended.

"It is distasteful, hurtful, disturbing, highly insensitive and completely inappropriate," he said.

"It betrays the professionalism I have seen time and time again displayed and practiced by our brave correctional employees."

The department had informed faith leaders and community leaders of the photo, Mr Sandy added.

"We have asked for their help to address it effectively, including with recommended changes or additions to our training programs," he wrote.

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