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Charlotte Amalie
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
HomeNewsArchivesGolden Grove Monitor Reports 'Virtually No Progress'

Golden Grove Monitor Reports 'Virtually No Progress'

Federal monitors found "virtually no progress" at the Golden Grove Adult Corrections Facility when they inspected the prison in June, they said in a report filed Sept. 1.

The monitors, operating under a federal consent decree, rated the facility on 120 provisions, and the prison was found in "noncompliance" with 107 of them, or 89 percent. June’s visit was the fourth since Aug. 12, when the current monitor, Kenneth Ray, was selected.

The full report can be seen here. [BOC Compliance Report 090114]

As in his previous reports, Ray’s Sept. 1 document paints a picture of a "very dangerous, violent, unhealthy, under-supervised, under-maintained and deleteriously understaffed correctional environment."

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"Inmates and staff are unnecessarily exposed to real and potential psycho-social and physical violence, inmates cannot receive adequate levels of medical or mental health services and care, and the lack of an adequate fire suppression system places everyone working and incarcerated at GGACF at constant substantial risk," the report says.

"Substandard and inconsistent security practices, i.e. consistently closing and locking security doors and gates, are exacerbated by inoperable locking mechanisms. Housing units continue to flood during heavy rains and mold remains profuse throughout most inmate housing areas," it continues.

A 1990 plan of compliance and a 2003 stipulated agreement followed the 1986 consent decree. Problems have persisted and, since 2003, 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.

According to the most recent assessment, not much has changed. The monitors found 107 of the 120 substantive provisions were in noncompliance when they toured in June. One provision was reversed from partial to noncompliance due to new problems, as described in the report.

"The compliance ratings in this Fourth Compliance Assessment Report demonstrate virtually no substantive progress since the September 2013 Baseline assessment," the report said.

The monitors toured the prison the month after Warden Basil Richards resigned in frustration following the escape of an inmate. Acting Warden Donald Redwood was named to succeed him and was on the job for the inspection. The monitors noted that, and made mention of changes he had made that, if not alleviating problems, at least showed promise.

At the same time, they rejected some documents and reports because they were so poorly prepared, noting misspellings and missing content. For instance, prison officials submitted documents pertaining to contraband, which Ray rejected out of hand.

"The policy documents submitted by the territory contained numerous writing errors, inconsistent formatting, omitted important content, and various other basic policy and procedure document elements," the report says. "This monitor believes that draft documents should only be submitted for review that contain all basic elements and are well written. Otherwise, the monitor cannot efficiently manage the approved monitoring budget efficiently if time is spent correcting basic document deficiencies."

Over and above that, he continued, monitors found "evidence that staff remain unclear about the definition of contraband."

A major concern in the report is the inability or unwillingness to always lock doors that are supposed to be kept locked, according to Ray’s report.

"During this assessment, this monitor found all internal housing unit gates and officer stations to be locked upon entry. However, none of the exterior security slider-doors were locked," the report says. "These doors – often referred to as the ‘sally port’ doors – were left standing open or unlocked upon entry into the units; we were once again advised that the electronic locking mechanisms are inoperable.”

“Although the various security gates throughout the facility were locked when the monitoring team first approached, the gates were not locked behind the team when the monitoring team toured the housing units,” the report says. “Moreover, on several occasions during the onsite inspection, the monitoring team/USDOJ representatives were able to simply open the outer perimeter gate upon arrival at GGACF, revealing that the gate did not always lock."

The report recommended, "Staff must consistently practice good security habits by keeping security doors and gates closed and locked. Officers still report that inadequate staffing levels require them to not lock security gates upon entry into the housing units for safety reasons. Housing unit logs report that fire escape doors and locks are inoperable. There was improvement found in yard-gate security, but some of the locking mechanisms remain inoperable and prevent the gates from being locked. Most notably, the last gate from the yard to the administrative building (which provides access to the outside of the facility) was broken. The supervisor bubble that looks out at this gate is frequently unstaffed, meaning that inmates can enter or exit the administrative building area as they please."

In another section the report notes that the prison was to establish a new identification system, wherein everyone in the prison – from inmates to guards to visitors – was to wear an ID badge.

"None of the inmates were observed to visibly wear correctional identification that was to be implemented. On March 21, 2014, the warden issued a memorandum to staff providing written instructions regarding inmates wearing identification cards. However, staff did not enforce or otherwise follow the warden’s instructions. This lack of attention by staff to this requirement also reflects a lack of staff supervision and monitoring by supervisors. Importantly, a new inmate identification system is only effective if inmates are required to wear the identification badges and the system is properly enforced. Otherwise, any resources dedicated to developing and implementing this system are wasted," the report says.

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