Golden Grove warden resigns for the 2nd time in a year


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ST. CROIX - Officials anticipate naming an acting warden for the troubled Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility today, after warden Basil Richards resigned.

"I will have to make some decisions tomorrow in coordination with Government House," Corrections Bureau Director Julius Wilson said Wednesday night.

Government House released a statement saying Gov. John deJongh Jr. had accepted Richards' resignation on Wednesday afternoon.

The statement suggested that the resignation had already been in the works and that it was not the result of a high-profile prison escape that was discovered early Monday.

Police said Rafael Joseph, a detainee who escaped sometime after the 9 p.m. head count at Golden Grove on Sunday, is accused of raping a woman before he was recaptured about noon on Monday. Prison staff found out the inmate was missing after the woman reported to police early Monday that Joseph had raped her and police contacted the prison inquiring after Joseph's whereabouts.

The Government House statement indicated that Richards had notified the governor of his intent to resign this weekend, before the escape occurred.

"Richards, who over the weekend informally advised the governor of his intent to resign, submitted a formal resignation letter on Wednesday," the Government House release said.

The resignation letter had Monday's date on it and the resignation was to have been effective immediately, according to Government House.

Even so, Richards was still on the job Tuesday and Wednesday. However, he did not respond to Daily News messages.

The brief Government House statement indicated that Richards cited a need for change in his resignation letter.

"Richards acknowledged that change is needed for both the correctional facility and for himself and his family. He wrote in the resignation letter that he could no longer resist the need to implement change for him and his family," the statement said.

Government House spokesman Jean Greaux Jr. did not respond to Daily News requests for a copy of the resignation letter.

Greaux did say that Richards had not been asked to resign.

Greaux also said he did not think the escape factored into the governor's decision to accept the resignation.

It was not the first time Richards resigned. He had submitted a resignation at least once last year, but reconsidered.

"He had been asked by the governor to hold on a little while longer," Greaux said. "But I think the governor understood this time that Basil really needed to move forward in terms of the changes he envisions for his family and himself."

Wilson thanked Richards on Wednesday.

"I think he served the bureau well. I wish him well," Wilson said. "It's going to take a quality person to fill his shoes, and we're going to make every attempt to find that individual."

There has been friction between Wilson and Richards in the past.

A dust-up between Wilson and Richards in April 2013 over interpretation of a court order dealing with moving a detainee outside of the Golden Grove compound led Wilson to suspend Richards, prompting speculation that Richards had been fired.

However, Wilson later reconsidered his decision to suspend Richards and rescinded the suspension a few days later, Greaux said at the time.

The court order that caused the dispute was in the case of another detainee who escaped from Golden Grove on the night of April 16, 2013, and was at large for more than 18 hours before he was captured.

Greaux said at the time that there had been a difference in opinion by the two men in interpreting a court order releasing the detainee to Luis Hospital for psychiatric stabilization.

A few months later, in October 2013, Richards submitted a resignation letter to Wilson and copied it to the governor, giving 30 days notice.

At the time, Greaux said the resignation letter - which had not been accepted - referred to matters reaching a pivotal point where Richards felt he had to resign. The letter was not released or made public.

That time, a senior staff member at Government House received the resignation, contacted Richards and encouraged him to have a conversation with Wilson on "whatever these pivotal issues are causing the resignation letter," Greaux said at the time.

According to Greaux, within a day or so, Richards had spoken with colleagues, family, friends and advisers and had asked Government House not to accept the resignation.

Government House encouraged conversation between the two men to resolve their differences, that happened, and Richards stayed on the job as warden, Greaux said at the time.

On Wednesday, Greaux said there had been "on-again, off-again talk" about Richards' resignation for awhile, and that it was "obviously something he had been contemplating for quite awhile."

- Contact Joy Blackburn at 714-9145 or email jblackburn@dailynews.vi.

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