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HomeNewsArchives‘HUMAN ERROR’ ALLOWED MAXWELL TO ESCAPE

‘HUMAN ERROR’ ALLOWED MAXWELL TO ESCAPE

A Corrections Bureau guard who left the Golden Grove prison with keys to an open cell block in his pocket played a large role in the August escape of murderer Bradley "Hurtie" Maxwell, according to V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
Stridiron made his comments during a public hearing Wednesday of the Government Operations Committee on the Corrections Bureau, a division of the V.I. Justice Department. Stridiron repeated earlier comments that Maxwell cut through the bars of his cell with a hacksaw blade, but it was the first time he explained how the convicted murderer and prior escapee was able to actually get out of the lock-down unit that housed his cell. Stridiron didn’t say how Maxwell obtained the saw blade.
"There was negligence, human error, that permitted Mr. Maxwell to escape," Stridiron said. "Doors to the unit … were left unlocked."
Stridiron said the guard in question awaits internal disciplinary hearings, along with three others. As of yet, no one has been found culpable for the mishap, which will be determined by a hearing officer, he said. Maxwell, who is doing time for the murder of a St. Thomas bar owner and a prior escape from the Subbase Jail Annex, was on the run for 11 days until he turned himself in to authorities in early September.
"We’ll see how it washes out as they … go through disciplinary measures," Stridiron said, adding that the mistake in what should be a "paramilitary" organization will not be tolerated. "We don’t believe there is room for error. People can die," he said.
"We take it very seriously when these type of errors occur. We expect them to conduct themselves as paramilitary officers."
At the time of the escape, Stridiron said that understaffing at the prison could have played a role. On Wednesday, he said a shortage of 42 corrections officers, 29 on St. Croix and 13 on St. Thomas, has resulted in overtime payments of some $1.2 million annually. That often translates into guards pulling 16-hour shifts.
"Many times corrections officers are required to work double shifts back to back," he said. "The remaining staff … are doing a yeoman’s job."
Exacerbating the staffing problem is the return of the territory’s remaining prisoners being held in the Federal Bureau of Prisons on the mainland. Because of the need to train more guards, the 30 prisoners scheduled to be returned from the mainland at the end of the month will instead be brought back on Oct. 15. The return of the remaining 24 prisoners will also be delayed 15 days until Nov. 15.
All of the territory’s prisoners that have been held off-island due to a consent decree between the federal and local governments will be housed at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility by the end of December, Stridiron said. To meet conditions of the consent decree, Golden Grove underwent a $25 million expansion that added 325 beds. Once construction is completed on Oct. 10, it will accommodate 655 prisoners.
But to accommodate the incoming prisoners, Corrections must hire 42 guards. So far 26 prisoners have been returned while about 22 guards have been hired, 10 in mid-September.
Government Operations Committee chairman Sen. Gregory Bennerson said he was concerned about the prospect of rookie guards overseeing inmates who have been hardened in mainland prisons.
"It perturbs me that you have a redline threshold you’re running at this point," Bennerson said, noting that the returning prisoners are "smarter and wiser" after doing time in federal prisons. "I see a potential problem coming down the road."
In addition to the expansion of Golden Grove, a 250-bed detention center is about to be completed adjacent to the prison. The new facility will replace the 90-bed Anna’s Hope Jail, which will be closed and turned over to the Human Services Department, Stridiron said.
On St. Thomas, the Sub Base Annex is being renovated to house 80 inmates while the jail on the top floor of the Criminal Justice Center will handle 97 prisoners who are either awaiting trial or serving sentences of less than a year.
The additional space for prisoners will be used to hold federal detainees, which should generate some $500,000 a year for the local government, Stridiron said.

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A Corrections Bureau guard who left the Golden Grove prison with keys to an open cell block in his pocket played a large role in the August escape of murderer Bradley "Hurtie" Maxwell, according to V.I. Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
Stridiron made his comments during a public hearing Wednesday of the Government Operations Committee on the Corrections Bureau, a division of the V.I. Justice Department. Stridiron repeated earlier comments that Maxwell cut through the bars of his cell with a hacksaw blade, but it was the first time he explained how the convicted murderer and prior escapee was able to actually get out of the lock-down unit that housed his cell. Stridiron didn’t say how Maxwell obtained the saw blade.
"There was negligence, human error, that permitted Mr. Maxwell to escape," Stridiron said. "Doors to the unit ... were left unlocked."
Stridiron said the guard in question awaits internal disciplinary hearings, along with three others. As of yet, no one has been found culpable for the mishap, which will be determined by a hearing officer, he said. Maxwell, who is doing time for the murder of a St. Thomas bar owner and a prior escape from the Subbase Jail Annex, was on the run for 11 days until he turned himself in to authorities in early September.
"We’ll see how it washes out as they ... go through disciplinary measures," Stridiron said, adding that the mistake in what should be a "paramilitary" organization will not be tolerated. "We don’t believe there is room for error. People can die," he said.
"We take it very seriously when these type of errors occur. We expect them to conduct themselves as paramilitary officers."
At the time of the escape, Stridiron said that understaffing at the prison could have played a role. On Wednesday, he said a shortage of 42 corrections officers, 29 on St. Croix and 13 on St. Thomas, has resulted in overtime payments of some $1.2 million annually. That often translates into guards pulling 16-hour shifts.
"Many times corrections officers are required to work double shifts back to back," he said. "The remaining staff ... are doing a yeoman’s job."
Exacerbating the staffing problem is the return of the territory’s remaining prisoners being held in the Federal Bureau of Prisons on the mainland. Because of the need to train more guards, the 30 prisoners scheduled to be returned from the mainland at the end of the month will instead be brought back on Oct. 15. The return of the remaining 24 prisoners will also be delayed 15 days until Nov. 15.
All of the territory’s prisoners that have been held off-island due to a consent decree between the federal and local governments will be housed at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility by the end of December, Stridiron said. To meet conditions of the consent decree, Golden Grove underwent a $25 million expansion that added 325 beds. Once construction is completed on Oct. 10, it will accommodate 655 prisoners.
But to accommodate the incoming prisoners, Corrections must hire 42 guards. So far 26 prisoners have been returned while about 22 guards have been hired, 10 in mid-September.
Government Operations Committee chairman Sen. Gregory Bennerson said he was concerned about the prospect of rookie guards overseeing inmates who have been hardened in mainland prisons.
"It perturbs me that you have a redline threshold you’re running at this point," Bennerson said, noting that the returning prisoners are "smarter and wiser" after doing time in federal prisons. "I see a potential problem coming down the road."
In addition to the expansion of Golden Grove, a 250-bed detention center is about to be completed adjacent to the prison. The new facility will replace the 90-bed Anna’s Hope Jail, which will be closed and turned over to the Human Services Department, Stridiron said.
On St. Thomas, the Sub Base Annex is being renovated to house 80 inmates while the jail on the top floor of the Criminal Justice Center will handle 97 prisoners who are either awaiting trial or serving sentences of less than a year.
The additional space for prisoners will be used to hold federal detainees, which should generate some $500,000 a year for the local government, Stridiron said.