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Prison Offers Cut-Rate Car Work to Senators

March 23, 2009 — Senators can get cut-rate car work done at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility, Bureau of Corrections Director Julius Wilson said at Monday's oversight hearing of the Public Safety, Homeland Security and Justice Committee. Sen. Terrence "Positive" Nelson raised the subject while saying he believed the prison needs more job training and rehabilitation programs for inmates to help reduce recidivism.
"Is it true you're redoing the upholstery for (Adlah "Foncie" Donastorg) the Senate president's car?" Nelson asked.
"Oh yes, he asked me if our shops were any good," Wilson said. The BOC wants to promote the work training program, to reduce recidivism and teach job skills, he said.
"I thought it was a good opportunity for showcasing the program," he said.
"So we can all get a reduced rate on work there?" Nelson asked. "Sure," Wilson said.
Several senators sharply questioned Wilson over a cafeteria contract with Trinity Food Service Group at the Frederiksted hearing.
Sen. Alvin Williams first broached the subject, noting the old contract was for $1.4 million and questioning how the new contract was awarded and why there was no formal request for proposals, as required by territorial law. Wilson said the old two-year contract with Trinity had expired and a contract extension was due to expire March 30, and the prison is working with Trinity on a month-to-month basis.
"My concern was the agreement I have right now runs out April 1 and as of April one, without an agreement, I don't have any food," Wilson said. Both the St. Thomas holding facility and St. Croix prison are under longstanding federal consent decrees mandating the territory improve conditions, and food service is a component of that, he said.
Sen. Nereida "Nellie" Rivera-O'Reilly asked Wilson if he got any legal advice before deciding to go forward with Trinity without issuing an RFP for a competitive bidding process. Wilson said he had spoken with Attorney General Vincent Frazer but had not specifically asked whether or not to renew without an RFP.
"My concern was the consent decree on food service and getting some adequate food service, because I wasn’t very happy with the service I was getting delivered."
O'Reilly and others also raised a concern that one of Trinity's employees at the prison was a former prison employee.
"Did it ever occur to you to move cautiously because of that?" she asked.
"No ma'am," Wilson said. "He's a regular employee of the company, not an owner or someone who had real influence in the company."
The BOC is about 25 percent of the way to meeting the requirements of the two federal consent decrees, Wilson said. Ongoing work on medical facilities at the prison is a major step toward meeting the requirements, he said.

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