Sept. 17, 2001 – A V.I. inmate incarcerated in the Wallens Ridge prison in Virginia has sued Attorney General Iver Stridiron and the V.I. government, saying the harsh conditions at the supermaximum-security institution violate his civil rights.
Roy Sylvester Parrott, who is serving a life-sentence on a 1978 conviction of first-degree murder, filed the suit in District Court last week. He was transferred to Wallens Ridge in August after being housed in the federal penitentiary in Terre Haute, Ind., according to court papers.
Parrott's complaint states that he is being held in a cell by himself and is allowed out for recreation just one hour a day, five days a week. Each time he leaves his cell, he must undergo a strip search that involves guards' checking his bodily orifices for hidden objects, he states.
He is led from his cell on a leash, in shackles, with three or four guards accompanying him, he states, and in his cell, a bright light shines 24 hours a day, causing harm to his eyes. He also claims that he is not allowed to make telephone calls and does not have access to Virgin Islands legal materials.
Parrott claims that he was sent to Wallens Ridge because he was falsely classified as a high-security risk in the Indiana federal penitentiary, where he was attacked and cut up by another inmate with a homemade shank.
Stridiron said Friday that he was not surprised by the lawsuit — and that he is expecting more such suits as a result of the decision to house local convicts in a prison known nationwide for its tough conditions.
"We anticipate we're going to get a lot of this," he said, adding that inmates frequently file lawsuits over their treatment. "None of them want to be there. It's intended to be a tough prison, but it's a constitutionally run prison."
Justice Department officials decided last year to send the highest-risk prisoners to Virginia, rather than to hold them at the Golden Grove prison on St. Croix. That decision came as local inmates being housed in federal prisons on the mainland were being returned to Golden Grove.
Fifteen V.I. inmates are being held at Wallens Ridge, which mostly holds people convicted of murder, Stridiron said. All of the V.I. prisoners are currently segregated from the general population and are being held under conditions similar to those Parrott cited.
An assistant attorney general will receive specialized training in prison law in anticipation of more suits being filed by inmates, Stridiron said. Nevertheless, he is confident that inmates' civil rights are not being violated at the prison, he said.
Stridiron noted that if prisoners at Wallens Ridge show that they can abide by rules and not cause problems, they can be transferred to Golden Grove. Meanwhile, inmates who are causing trouble at Golden Grove could get sent to Virginia, he said. Prison officials are currently considering sending one inmate at Golden Grove to Virginia because of bad behavior, he said.
Earlier this year, Connecticut officials decided to pull their inmates out of the Wallens Ridge prison after hearing reports of the harsh conditions, according to Eric Balaban, the staff counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union's National Prison Project.
The ACLU had filed a lawsuit on behalf of the Connecticut prisoners housed at Wallens Ridge, citing rules that allowed individual officers to order inmates be tied down in five-point restraints for up to 72 hours, Balaban said. He also noted the frequent use by Wallens Ridge guards of electric stun devices.
Balaban said he sent letters to the V.I. Bureau of Corrections director, Horace Magras, urging the V.I. government not to send its inmates to Wallens Ridge. He said the ACLU would not hesitate to file lawsuits on behalf of the prisoners if it receives credible reports of civil rights violations.
Stridiron said Friday he stands by his decision to send some inmates to the Virginia prison. He said it will be a strong incentive for prisoners at Golden Grove to abide by the rules.


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