Justice Department Files for Receivership in Virgin Islands Prison Conditions Case
WASHINGTON - The Justice Department today filed a motion for appointment of a receiver in the U.S. District Court, St. Croix, USVI, to remedy 25 years of non-compliance with court orders by the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections (BOC) regarding unconstitutional conditions of confinement at the Golden Grove Adult Correctional and Detention Facility. The United States brought the original complaint under the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act (CRIPA).
The department is unaware of any other instance where the Civil Rights Division has sought receivership of a correctional facility.
Despite ongoing efforts by a special master appointed in 2006 by the court to remedy contempt findings, violence at the prison has escalated over the past several months, including multiple stabbings. Alarming amounts of contraband continue to enter in the prison, including weapons, drugs, street clothing and electronics.
The receiver sought by the United States would address numerous ongoing deficiencies, including the BOC’s failure to: maintain adequate staffing, write and train staff on policies and procedures, appropriately classify and separate violent prisoners, systematically prevent and detect contraband, provide adequate medical and mental health care, and provide humane living conditions.
“The deplorable conditions at Golden Grove continue to deteriorate after years of non-compliance with court orders,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “While it is always our preference to work with agencies to make necessary changes, this agency has left us with no choice but to seek the drastic measure of receivership.”
“Receivership is the last resort. We arrive at this juncture only after spending the last 25 years exhausting every other viable alternative,” said Ronald W. Sharpe, U.S. Attorney for the District of the Virgin Islands. “We cannot continue to allow prisoners to live in unsafe, filthy and hazardous conditions without constitutionally required medical and mental health care.”
Civil Rights Division Special Litigation Section Special Counsel Laura Coon and Trial Attorneys Andrew Barrick and Emily Gunston and Virgin Islands Assistant U.S. Attorney Angela Tyson-Floyd lead the department’s enforcement of this civil matter.