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Attorney General: Trust Justice Department to Fix Corrections Bureau

April 8, 2008 — The Bureau of Corrections is not perfect, "but it's the only one we have," and the community has to trust Department of Justice (DOJ) officials to turn the system around, Attorney General Vincent Frazer said Tuesday.
During a joint press conference with Police Commissioner James H. McCall, Frazer said he's not going to wait until the bureau is severed from DOJ to put in place certain reforms, including long-awaited changes in BOC middle management, the appointment of a new prisons director and the ongoing transfer of inmates at Golden Grove Correctional Facility to institutions on the mainland.
While BOC has often been in the spotlight over the past few years — officers have protested unfair working conditions, pay problems and various management issues — last month's escape of convicted murderer and rapist Jeffrey Warner brought new issues to the forefront, especially after it was revealed that Warner had been scheduled for a transfer to a facility on the mainland. Frazer has since said that various court appeals — Warner was recently re-sentenced on a first-degree murder charge — held up the process.
On Tuesday, Frazer said DOJ would review the files of all inmates detained at Golden Grove to make sure the same legal situation seen with Warner — who Frazer said "fell between the cracks" — doesn't happen again. However, Frazer cautioned that the cost associated with transferring prisoners to mainland institutions is high — currently, the cost of housing 25 local inmates at a facility in Virginia has hit almost $1 million a year.
Warner escaped from Golden Grove on March 15 and was recaptured by local and federal law enforcement officials five days later. Warner "managed" to climb on top of the frame of a basketball hoop at the prison recreation center and slip through the fencing above the court, Frazer said.
"This incident has highlighted possible weaknesses in the security system — the fence, for example, was improperly secured," he added. Frazer said he "doesn't think" his office will charge Warner with escaping from prison.
Meanwhile, community members must have faith in the system and the officers on duty, Frazer said. Despite ongoing controversy surrounding the smuggling of drugs, weapons and other contraband into Golden Grove, Frazer said a "lot of good officers" work at the facility — including the guards that perform the daily shakedowns.
"No illegal activity will be condoned or tolerated, and we will be doing our best to weed those individuals out," Frazer explained.
To help turn around the public's negative perception, Frazer also announced that he will make changes in bureau management — a process that will soon begin with full reviews and evaluations of BOC staff.
"We're looking for experienced prisons managers, and will be looking at present staff and off-island candidates," Frazer said. "We will evaluate all people in management positions and look at their past records and past performances. But we have determined what we had in place has not been working in the best interest of the bureau."
Frazer also said he will submit a recommendation for a new prisons director soon and said DOJ plans to move forward next month with a number of high-profile cases. He also credited the efforts of federal and local prosecutors in netting five first-degree murder convictions in jury cases tried over the past few months.
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