Corrections Bureau Facing Sanctions for Paying Fed Monitor Late

A court-appointed monitor overseeing compliance with a federal court settlement on problems at Golden Grove prison is asking the V.I. Bureau of Corrections to be held in contempt of court for repeatedly failing to pay him on time. Corrections is blaming the delay on a glitch in the Finance Department and arguing it should not be held in contempt for actions taken by others that it does not control.

For decades, Golden Grove has operated under a 1986 federal consent decree requiring the territory’s government bring the prison up to constitutional standards. A 1990 plan of compliance and a 2003 stipulated agreement followed the consent decree.

Problems have persisted and, since 2003, the U.S. District Court for the Virgin Islands has issued several compliance orders directing the V.I. Bureau of Corrections to take specific security measures, hire new health care professionals, provide specific mental, medical and dental services, and eliminate specific fire and safety hazards, among other detailed directives.

Since August 2012, the U.S. government proposed a new settlement agreement, and both sides agreed to select Kenneth Ray of Justice Services LLC as an independent monitor to issue regular compliance reports.

The reports have concluded again and again that little progress is being made but Corrections and the V.I. government are making a good faith effort. (See Related Links below.)

According to court documents, in June, after the territory failed to pay Ray on time, the court ordered Corrections to pay Ray’s invoices within 30 days of receipt or face court sanctions. Payment again came late and the court ordered Corrections to show cause as to why sanctions should not be imposed.

U.S. District Court Chief Judge Wilma Lewis issued a memorandum opinion Monday, saying Corrections’ response was "inadequate."

"In a two-sentence explanation of its untimely payment, Defendants simply assert – without any details or support – that the Bureau of Corrections ‘timely processed’ the monitor’s invoice, but that the check was delayed because the Department of Finance had ‘technical difficulties with its software program,’" Lewis wrote. "Then, in equally summary fashion and without citation to any legal authority, Defendants purport to argue against the imposition of sanctions by noting that their payment was “merely four days tardy,” that they acted “immediately” and “promptly” after being informed that the monitor had not received payment, that the Department of Finances’ technical difficulties were “unforeseen,” and that Defendants did not “willfully violate" the court’s order. [Golden Grove Monitor Hearing Order]

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