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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, May 29, 2024
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PRISON AUDITS LINGER

Among the dozens of audits neglected by the V.I. government are a batch of reports criticizing the periodically troubled Bureau of Corrections for poor inmate care, flimsy security and structural problems at its jails.
A handful of the solutions proposed by the Interior Department's inspector general in audits performed as long ago as 1991 have been fully or partially implemented. But several recommendations remain outstanding, causing potential lapses in security, continuing maintenance problems, and overcrowding, according to the latest audit, which was delivered to the territorial government on June 1, 1998.
"Deficiencies disclosed in the prior reports still existed," acting Inspector General Robert Williams wrote in the June audit. "As a result, physical security at the correctional facilities continued to be compromised, repair and maintenance problems existed, prison facilities were overcrowded, rehabilitative programs for inmates were not fully effective and deficiencies related to staffing and training existed within the bureau."
These conditions existed because jails on St. Thomas and St. Croix did not have standard operating procedures, corrections personnel did not always follow established procedures, and the Bureau of Corrections did not have a permanent management team, according to the audit.
The IG advised the bureau to hire enough staff to maintain a "reasonable level of security," better supervise inmates on work release assignments, ensure those inmates are promptly paid, revise recruitment and retention policies for corrections employees and job applicants, follow the same policies and procedures at all facilities, and fill top management positions such as director, assistant director, warden and assistant warden.
The audit also recommended the bureau reconsider any of the 38 recommendations made in prior reports that had not been fully implemented.
According to the Interior Department's local Office of the Inspector General, the V.I. government has never responded to the six new recommendations made in last year's audit.
Corrections Bureau Director Gina Harrison could not be reached for comment because she is on leave; no comment was available from Government House on what action Gov. Charles Turnbull's administration is taking to resolve the problems identified in either the prison audits or other lingering reports.
According to a Government House spokesperson, Turnbull, at a Cabinet meeting last week, instructed Cabinet members to use audits as guides to developing policies and procedures, and as a management tool in running their departments and agencies.
The spokesperson, however, did not discuss the findings of specific audits.
The June 1998 prisons audit credited the bureau with making some improvements to security, but found there were still significant deficiencies because no procedures manual had been developed for its St. Croix facilities.
"In addition," the audit found, "corrections officers stationed in the perimeter guard towers at Golden Grove were not provided with firearms that could serve as a deterrent to inmates attempting to escape from the prison."
The audit also found the bureau had not made all the improvements mandated by the U.S. District Court. Although auditors found improvements in the areas of emergency medical care, medication and sanitation, problems remained with fire safety and screening of windows.
The audit further found that the bureau had developed formal procedures for supervision of work detail programs, but that those procedures were not always followed.
"Twenty-four maximum security prisoners, who had committed violent crimes such as first-degree murder, were allowed to work in areas such as the farm, the carpentry shop and the kitchen, where they had access to tools and other sharp objects that could be used in the conduct of violent acts against other inmates or prison personnel," Williams wrote in the audit.
The audit also found continued problems with the housing of inmates, where violent felons shared cells with people convicted of far less serious crimes.
As far as overcrowding, the audit said the Criminal Justice Complex on St. Thomas was the most overcrowded correctional facility in the territory.

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