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FEDERAL PRISON DEBT NOT SHRINKING

Even though the V.I. government has made a $766,000 payment to the U.S. Treasury for local prisoners held in federal prisons on the mainland, the territory still owes approximately $13 million.
According to V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron, the quarter-million dollar payment covered the Federal Bureau of Prison’s cost of housing prisoners from the territory for the period between October and January.
The administration, however, is still in arrears some $11 million for 90 prisoners incarcerated off island since the early 1990s. Ongoing monthly payments for the prisoners are approximately $200,000 a month.
Because of the delinquent payments, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to federal law, turned over collection to the U.S. Treasury. Treasury then tacked on an additional $2.2 million collection fee, Stridiron said.
Until the issue is straightened out, the Treasury will continue to divert funds scheduled for the territory to pay off the debt. For March, that translated into more than $1 million in funds from the Department of Transportation.
"The Treasury would simply hold that and apply it to the debt that is owed," Stridiron said.
Stridiron said he hopes the Bureau of Prisons looks at the $766,000 payment as a "good faith" gesture when he goes to Washington, D.C. this week to negotiate a solution. Earlier negotiations saw the federal government ask for $250,000 a month payments to cover the past-due debt and another $200,000 to pay the monthly cost for the prisoners currently incarcerated.
Instead, the V.I. is negotiating for the $200,000 housing cost and then a payment plan to retire the debt. Had the $450,000-a-month payments been instituted, Stridiron said the V.I. government would have "failed miserably" trying to meet it.
"Other things would have fallen by the wayside," he said. "We’re optimistic that the Bureau of Prisons . . . will suspend the collection effort."
The administration contends that a large part of the debt was caused because of hurricane damage to the territory’s prison and a subsequent consent decree agreed upon between the V.I. and federal governments to solve overcrowding problems.
Stridiron said the prisoners were supposed to be housed off island for only six months.
"We didn’t have the space for them or the wherewithal to pay for them," he said. "It didn’t help that the economy of the Virgin Islands nosedived."
Meanwhile, the expansion of the Golden Grove Prison on St. Croix should alleviate the debt problem by allowing the 90 prisoners in the federal system to return to the territory. Stridiron said by the end of April about 10 medium-security prisoners will be returned to Golden Grove. That number will increase each month until the end of summer.
"By August we should have all those prisoners back," he said.

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Even though the V.I. government has made a $766,000 payment to the U.S. Treasury for local prisoners held in federal prisons on the mainland, the territory still owes approximately $13 million.
According to V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron, the quarter-million dollar payment covered the Federal Bureau of Prison’s cost of housing prisoners from the territory for the period between October and January.
The administration, however, is still in arrears some $11 million for 90 prisoners incarcerated off island since the early 1990s. Ongoing monthly payments for the prisoners are approximately $200,000 a month.
Because of the delinquent payments, the Federal Bureau of Prisons, according to federal law, turned over collection to the U.S. Treasury. Treasury then tacked on an additional $2.2 million collection fee, Stridiron said.
Until the issue is straightened out, the Treasury will continue to divert funds scheduled for the territory to pay off the debt. For March, that translated into more than $1 million in funds from the Department of Transportation.
"The Treasury would simply hold that and apply it to the debt that is owed," Stridiron said.
Stridiron said he hopes the Bureau of Prisons looks at the $766,000 payment as a "good faith" gesture when he goes to Washington, D.C. this week to negotiate a solution. Earlier negotiations saw the federal government ask for $250,000 a month payments to cover the past-due debt and another $200,000 to pay the monthly cost for the prisoners currently incarcerated.
Instead, the V.I. is negotiating for the $200,000 housing cost and then a payment plan to retire the debt. Had the $450,000-a-month payments been instituted, Stridiron said the V.I. government would have "failed miserably" trying to meet it.
"Other things would have fallen by the wayside," he said. "We’re optimistic that the Bureau of Prisons . . . will suspend the collection effort."
The administration contends that a large part of the debt was caused because of hurricane damage to the territory’s prison and a subsequent consent decree agreed upon between the V.I. and federal governments to solve overcrowding problems.
Stridiron said the prisoners were supposed to be housed off island for only six months.
"We didn’t have the space for them or the wherewithal to pay for them," he said. "It didn’t help that the economy of the Virgin Islands nosedived."
Meanwhile, the expansion of the Golden Grove Prison on St. Croix should alleviate the debt problem by allowing the 90 prisoners in the federal system to return to the territory. Stridiron said by the end of April about 10 medium-security prisoners will be returned to Golden Grove. That number will increase each month until the end of summer.
"By August we should have all those prisoners back," he said.