Governor John P. de Jongh, Jr. has expressed disappointment at the U.S. Department of Justice’s move to seek the appointment of a receiver to take control of the Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix. “Since taking office in 2007, I have taken very seriously the requirements of the Consent Decree that had been entered with respect to Golden Grove and the needs of the institution that were addressed in the Consent Decree,” de Jongh said. “With the Legislature’s agreement, we made changes including establishing the Bureau of Corrections as a separate agency. We have allocated the financial resources needed to make sure the required services and staffing are in place.”
“Given our past and continuing efforts, I have instructed both the Bureau of Corrections and the V.I. Department of Justice to fight this attempt at a take-over by the federal government. I believe we must tell our side of the story. This is best done by showing our accomplishments to date, as well as what is in process, as these actions and plans are the best indication of our commitment both to comply with the Consent Decree and to fix the decades old problems at our prison,” de Jongh said.
The Golden Grove Correctional Facility has been under a federal consent decree for the more than two decades, but according to Julius Wilson, BOC Director, “we have accomplished a tremendous amount in the last several years with bringing on line a functional medical unit, improving the physical plant, and hiring correctional officers.”
He highlighted the information that will be presented to the Court in reply to the federal government’s motion for the appointment of a receiver. “Since January 1, 2008, the Bureau has hired one hundred and twenty-two employees including a medical director, dentist, dental assistant, psychologist, psychiatrist, two social workers and several registered nurses,” said Wilson. The hires also include a training specialist, construction superintendent and sixty-nine Correctional Officers.
Security measures throughout the facility have been upgraded with the installation of perimeter fencing, lighting, and the positioning of a security camera surveillance system. The number of security personnel has been increased and a classification system for detainees and sentenced inmates has been implemented. Intelligence-based shake-downs of the facility occur frequently and all inmates are required to wear IDs. Inmate property control systems are also in place.
Major repairs to the more than fifty-year old facility have also been completed. A modernized computer system is now in place as is an inmate telephone and cable network. The ventilation system throughout the prison has been overhauled and a chemical distribution system for sanitization has been established. New laundry and food service equipment has been purchased and major repairs to the plumbing fixtures have also been completed.
Programs to address inmates’ needs and to provide structured use of leisure time have also been enhanced through vocational training and the expansion of the prison agriculture program which now contains fish propagation, honey production, row crops and livestock.
“I know we all have the same objective, which is a properly functioning correctional facility. It is my intent to show the judge that we are on the correct path to this end and that a federal takeover is not only not needed, but won’t get us to our shared goal any more quickly than will building upon the progress we have already made,” Wilson said.