V.I. Legislature passes resolution of no confidence against Julius Wilson

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ST. THOMAS - In a 10-5 vote, senators passed a resolution Tuesday giving Corrections Bureau Director Julius Wilson a vote of no confidence.

The resolution, sponsored by Sen. Kenneth Gittens, also asks Gov. John deJongh Jr. to demand Wilson's resignation, or otherwise seek his termination.

The resolution is symbolic and only expresses the Legislature's position.

The Corrections Bureau is part of the executive branch and Wilson would be required to resign only if the governor - not the Legislature - requests it.

"It's obvious that we have a lot of problems at the Bureau of Corrections and it stems from the leadership," Gittens said.

He said the prison system has trouble with labor relations, mismanagement, assaults and murder within the prison walls.

"I'm not sitting back to wait for another murder," Gittens said.

Sen. Diane Capehart said the bureau's leadership could be better.

"If there's not a strong management leadership, it will go downhill. I've seen that," she said.

Five senators opposed the measure, saying the problems are systemic and not necessarily Wilson's fault.

"I agree that management must change, but we must look at the root of the matter," said Sen. Sammuel Sanes. "We're talking about a problem that's been going on for 30 years."

Sanes and Sen. Nereida Rivera-O'Reilly both said if the Senate wants to make a difference at the Bureau of Corrections, it should consider funding it to the level requested each year.

"It sounds good, but does it really make a difference?" Rivera-O'Reilly asked about the resolution.

Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility on St. Croix has been under court orders to bring conditions up to constitutional standards for more than 27 years and has thus far failed to do so.

The jails on St. Thomas have been under court orders to bring conditions up to constitutional standards for almost 20 years, but that has not happened either.

Wilson has been on the job approximately five years.

Gittens acknowledges he is a cousin to the Correction Bureau's assistant director, Dwayne Benjamin, who potentially could stand to gain if Wilson should resign.

Gittens said his relationship with Benjamin has no bearing on the resolution.

Those voting in favor of the resolution were Senators Craig Barshinger, Capehart, Donald Cole, Gittens, Clifford Graham, Myron Jackson, Shawn-Michael Malone, Terrence Nelson, Clarence Payne III and Janette Millin Young.

Voting against the bill were Senators Judi Buckley, Alicia Hansen, Rivera-O'Reilly, Tregenza Roach and Sanes.

- Contact reporter Aldeth Lewin at 714-9111 or email alewin@dailynews.vi.

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