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Charlotte Amalie
Saturday, June 15, 2024


Sept. 9, 2001 — The V.I. Justice Department may soon attain a goal it has been pursuing for decades — to bring its correctional facilities in line with a federal order — according to Attorney General Iver Stridiron.
Testifying before the Senate Finance Committee in Frederiksted on Saturday, Stridiron said that the department’s addition of 280 beds at the Golden Grove Correctional Facility on St. Croix in February, which brought the total to approximately 600, resolved the overcrowding issue spelled out in a consent decree between the U.S. and V.I. Justice Departments some 17 years ago.
The expansion allowed the V.I. government to bring approximately 140 local prisoners back to the territory from mainland jails, Stridiron, whose department oversees the Corrections Bureau, said. That move, earlier this year, spurred the federal government to forgive the territory’s mainland incarceration debt of nearly $10 million and ended the $130,000-a-month cost of having the prisoners housed off island.
"For too long, the Bureau of Corrections has been a stepchild," Stridiron said. "But in this administration, it is being given the attention that is required." Because of that, Stridiron said, the federal judge overseeing the consent decree may well be ready to bring it to an end.
"I think that by the end of this year, we might see the end to that order," he said.
Meanwhile, Stridiron asked that the Finance Committee increase his department’s budget for Fiscal Year 2002 from the governor’s recommendation of about $25 million to $29 million. The budget is split among Justice, Corrections and the Division of Paternity and Child Support.
Stridiron said the additional money is needed to hire more prison guards and prosecutors. He said he is looking to hire seven new prosecuting attorneys and two more more attorneys for the Paternity and Child Support Division.
Also at the Finance Committee meeting Saturday, officials of the Finance Department, Office and Management and Budget and Internal Revenue Bureau asked the committee chair, Sen. Alicia "Chucky" Hansen, to rethink her calls for further property tax-amnesty periods.
Finance Commissioner Bernice Turnbull said that in order for her department needs to collect the approximately $50 million in outstanding property-tax bills, the government cannot continue to run amnesty periods. Turnbull and Hansen agreed to end the next amnesty in November, after unionized government employees get their step increases in October.
Louis Willis, IRB director, noted that his bureau, and not the Finance Department, should be responsible for the collection of property taxes.

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