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Federal authorities seek takeover of Virgin Islands prison

By Terry Frieden, CNN Justice Department Producer
  • Golden Grove Adult Correctional and Detention Facility is wracked by violence
  • Justice Dept. requests that a federal judge in St. Croix appoint a federal receiver
  • U.S. Attorney: 25 years were spent "exhausting every other viable alternative"

Washington (CNN) -- Justice Department officials are so fed up with a drug-infested, violence-wracked prison in the U.S. Virgin Islands they did something they had never done before -- they went to court and asked to entirely take over operation of the institution.

The request for a federal judge in St. Croix to appoint a federal receiver came as stabbings, firearms and filth mounted at the Golden Grove Adult Correctional and Detention Facility.

"The deplorable conditions at Golden Grove continue to deteriorate after years of noncompliance with court orders," said Assistant Attorney General Thomas Perez. "This agency has left us with no choice but to seek the drastic measure of receivership," Perez said.

"Receivership is the last resort," said U.S. Attorney for the Virgin Islands Ronald Sharpe. "We arrive at this juncture only after spending the last 25 years exhausting every other viable alternative," he said.

Justice Department officials said the prisoners live in unsafe, filthy and hazardous conditions without required medical and mental health care. Contraband -- including weapons, illegal drugs, restricted street clothing and electronics -- flows freely into the prison, authorities maintained.

Officials said the receiver would be empowered to overhaul and increase staffing, develop strict procedures, train staff in detecting contraband, develop a range of strict procedures and find ways to classify and separate violent prisoners.