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Aug. 14, 2001 – Calling it "hellacious," Attorney General Iver Stridiron on Tuesday described life at a Virginia prison where he and three other government officials were last Friday meeting with authorities and V.I. inmates.
Wallens Ridge State Prison is considered a Level 6 or "super max," for highest maximum-security, facility. It was opened in April 1999.
A Level 6 prison as defined by the Virginia Department of Corrections is for individuals serving single life, multiple life and life-plus sentences; and those who are disruptive or assaultive, are escape risks, or display severe behavior problems or predatory-type behavior.
Rehabilitation is not at the top of the priority list at Wallens Ridge, Stridiron said Tuesday afternoon at a press conference on St. Thomas. Security is.
Currently 15 Virgin Islands prisoners reside at the prison in Big Stone Gap, Va. A dozen of them previously were incarcerated in other mainland institutions.
When 90 prisoners were returned to the territory from mainland prisons last year, the Corrections Bureau director, Horace Magras, asked that those 12 be kept on the mainland. Looking at a staff of rookie corrections officers ill-equipped to handle more dangerous and disruptive prisoners, Stridiron agreed to Magras's request.
At Wallens Ridge, a typical day for the V.I. prisoners — who are together in a "segregation unit," as are prisoners from New Mexico, Connecticut and Virginia — is 23 hours in a cell and one hour of "recreation." That hour might consist of one of the three showers they are allowed each week, or time in a 6 by 9 foot outdoor cage that strongly resembles the dog cages at the Humane Society of St. Thomas.
The prisoners can get "sun" while in the cage, Stridiron said.
Before leaving their cells, prisoners are shackled hands and feet to ensure the safety of security personnel and other prisoners. Stridiron said two corrections officers walk each inmate to the shower or the outdoor cage.
Magras, who accompanied Stridrion to Wallens Ridge, said the facility was well managed and well controlled and meets the accreditation requirements of the American Correctional Association. He said the differences between St. Croix's Golden Grove Correctional Facility and Wallens Ridge are "startling."
At Golden Grove, Bradley "Hurtie" Maxwell could walk the grounds. Those days are over for Maxwell, confined at Wallens Ridge at least for now. Maxwell, a convicted murdered, escaped from prison twice in the Virgin Islands.
The V.I. prisoners could "earn their way back to the Virgin Islands," Stridiron said, but doing so would be a "Herculean task" that would depend entirely upon their behavior. The inmates also can earn their way to lower-level prisons if they behave themselves, he said.
Stridrion said he hoped that describing the severe conditions of Wallens Ridge at a press conference might have the effect of deterring some young people from pursuing a criminal lifestyle that could end them up there or at some other mainland maximum security facility.
"It's hardest on the families," the attorney general said, "especially the mothers and grandmothers" who cannot afford to travel to Wallens Ridge.
The V.I. prisoners currently serving time at Wallens Ridge are:
Dennis Blyden
Thomas Freeland
Beaumont Gereau
Matthew George
Delroy Josiah
Ruben Maduro
Bradley Maxwell
Eric Miller
Gent Mosby
Roy Parrott
Julio Perez
Ruben Rivera-Morena
Alrick Roberts
Roberto Smalls
Meral Smith

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