VIPD, Corrections officers shake down Golden Grove searching for contraband


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ST. CROIX - Just after midnight Thursday morning, the V.I. Corrections Bureau and V.I. Police Department conducted a shakedown at Golden Grove Adult Correctional Facility with a goal of reducing contraband.

The shakedown, which Corrections dubbed "Operation Lights Out," included searches of dormitories and other common areas of the prison, according to a statement Corrections released Thursday night.

It said the main goal was "to eradicate the amassing of contraband at the facility" and to help create a safer environment at the prison.

"This operation is part of a series of safety and security efforts being taken by the Bureau to ensure that our facilities become safer environments for inmates and for the staff that works at our facilities," Dwayne Benjamin, acting director of the bureau, said in the prepared statement.

This shakedown comes less than two months after a massive search by federal agents for contraband at Golden Grove in the overnight hours from April 7 to 8 uncovered weapons, cell phones, illegal drugs and even a Sony PlayStation. That search was part of an ongoing investigation into a contraband smuggling operation at the prison.

Several days before that raid, on April 3, a federal grand jury handed up indictments against 29 Golden Grove inmates, accusing them of contraband offenses.

Thursday's search by Corrections and Police also came after two stabbings in three days - one Saturday and one Tuesday - at the prison left two inmates wounded, and after an escape that was discovered in the early morning hours May 12.

Benjamin said in the prepared statement that recent incidents have forced the agency "to delve deeper into their mechanisms and resources, as well as examine and utilize alternate measures to remove the violence and other ills that plague the organization's facilities."

The release said that several cell phones, shanks and marijuana were confiscated during the operation.

Corrections spokeswoman Juel Anderson would not provide specifics on how many of those items were found, saying the bureau would not release those numbers. She said she did not know the reason why that information was being withheld.

During the federal raid April 7 and 8, agents found approximately 55 weapons, including homemade knives, or shanks, and other contraband that could be used as weapons, such as razor blades and scissors; 28 cellular telephones; a cell phone "booster;" a Sony PlayStation; and illegal drugs, which were seized from 33 separate cells, along with drug packaging material and other drug paraphernalia, according to a statement the U.S. Attorney's Office released last month.

Thursday's Corrections statement quoted Donald Redwood, the acting warden of Golden Grove, saying that Thursday's shakedown operation "was successful and effective."

"The BOC leadership is grateful for the support and collaboration received and exhibited by the VIPD through the sharing of resources and manpower. This was truly a shining example of inter-agency cooperation," Redwood said in the release.

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