Conditions at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility are improving, but too slowly and without enough money or management leadership, so he resigned out of frustration, Warden Basil Richards told the Source.
Richards informally informed Gov. John deJongh Jr. over the weekend of his intent to resign and submitted a formal letter of resignation, dated Monday. The prison has been struggling with tight budgets, low pay, short staffing and federal court orders mandating security, staffing, health and safety issues be fixed. (See Related Links below)
"I am not here trying to bring down the prison system, and I will tell you it had nothing to do with the recent escape," Richards said Thursday. “This was in the works for a long time because there are things we need to do to satisfy the court decree that we are not doing.”
On Sunday, inmate Rafael Joseph, who has been awaiting trial on rape charges for three years, escaped the facility. He was recaptured Monday. According to police, once out, Joseph went immediately to the home of his ex-girlfriend, who he was accused of raping in 2011, and allegedly raped her again. Police and the prison were alerted to Joseph’s escape by the victim’s call to report the rape at 3:20 a.m. (See Related Links below)
Richards later reiterated he was not leaving as a result of the escape, but acknowledged it helped trigger the timing.
"The escape was the last straw for me, but that is not the reason. It hurt me to my core that happened. It should never have happened. And we have to take responsibility," he said.
Asked what the prison needed, Richards said, "We need our staffing. We need these officers to get proper pay."
"Morale is at an all time low,” he said. “Recruiting is tough and the main reason is, everyone knows what we need to get the job done – to include the inmates, staff and upper management – and it just has not been done.”
“I will not sit by and watch something crumble when we know what we need," he continued.
“It is not a personal thing,” Richards said. “The bottom line is not doing what we are supposed to do and it reflects on leadership. There are incredible challenges, yes, and we know what our challenges are. Everybody knows. The report has been written by a court monitor and published, so I don’t need to list them, we know what they are."
He emphasized that not all is bad at the prison and that strides have been made. "Change is occurring, albeit way too slow for me," he said. "I tried to effect change and wasn’t able to satisfy that.” Richards said he had “no control over certain things. It just came to a point where I kept meeting opposition and you’ve got to move forward. I don’t want to be part of a nonchanging environment.”
Born and raised on St. Croix, Richards went to work for the state of California after college, working up through the ranks of the California prison system, most recently in its inspector general’s office. He said he was recruited to return to St. Croix in 2011 as an investigator for the prison to help it meet the federal consent decree. He was appointed warden in September of 2012.
Richards said he plans to return to the states and continue working in law enforcement.