Conditions in the Virgin Island’s prison system still have a ways to go but are moving in the right direction, Gov. John deJongh Jr. said after a meeting this week with Julius Wilson, director of the Bureau of Corrections.
The meeting was held to discuss achievements and challenges following this year’s settlement agreement with the federal Department of Justice in the 26-year old consent decree involving conditions at Golden Grove Correctional Facility, according to Thursday’s news release from Government House.
The governor said that progress was being made in addressing the most critical issues in the prison system.
"Conditions are not perfect and they are not where we would like them to be, but we are moving in the right direction," he said.
DeJongh said the major areas being addressed included training correctional officers, recruiting staff, controlling the size of the inmate population and managing finances.
"I am pleased to report that the Bureau of Corrections is working closely with the Police Department in the area of training," the governor said. "Correctional officers will now attend the Police Academy, giving them more schooling in law enforcement and also allowing them to develop relationships with other peace officers. We have been actively recruiting for both departments and are giving veterans special preference for these jobs."
According to deJongh, "in acknowledgement of their sacrifices for our nation, veterans are exempt from taking the entrance examinations for law enforcement positions."
The governor said he and Wilson evaluated the inmate populations in the territory’s three facilities – Golden Grove, Alexander Farrelly Criminal Justice Center and Alva Swan Annex – and are planning to bring back some off-island inmates, who are being housed in stateside prisons.
"This move would produce substantial savings in off-island incarceration expenses," deJongh said. "There are about 350 individuals housed at Golden Grove, about 225 to 250 of them sentenced inmates, but the remainder are detainees, a majority being held because of Immigration and Customs violations. There are also about 90 inmates housed in the continental United States. The management of this group is of primary concern to all of us."
DeJongh said the BOC is also exploring providing health care for inmates by licensed registered nurses working at other government facilities.
"Whenever and wherever possible, we are leveraging the resources of government to cover a multitude of areas for efficiency and cost-effectiveness," the governor said.