Lawrence Carty, et al. v. Kenneth Mapp, et al. is a long-running challenge to inhumane and dangerous conditions at the Criminal Justice Complex (CJC) and the CJC Annex on the island of Saint Thomas in the United States Virgin Islands. Prisoners represented by the ACLU National Prison Project filed a class action complaint on June 20, 1994. Since that time, Plaintiffs have sought wide-ranging relief in the case, including improvements to the CJC facility and significant changes to the medical and mental health care afforded to prisoners by the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections (BOC).
Plaintiffs have entered into two settlement agreements with the BOC. The first settlement agreement, which was executed in October of 1994, required improvements to the CJC’s physical plant, including fire safety, and mandated sweeping reforms to the medical and mental care provided to prisoners. The second settlement agreement, signed in 2013, required improvements in policies at CJC, including those addressing the use of force against prisoners, and again mandated changes to the medical and mental health care at the CJC.
For decades, the BOC has failed to live up to its obligation to improve conditions and health care for prisoners in its custody. As a result of these failures, the district court has held the Defendants in Carty in contempt four times. In 1997, the Court found that the conditions at the CJC “continue[d] to fall short of very basic, minimum habitability ….” In 2001, the Court again held the Defendants in contempt for failing to address problems related to medication distribution, fire safety, and security systems, among others. In May of 2003, the Court held Defendants in contempt for violating court orders “designed to remedy unconstitutional conditions” at the CJC. In 2007, the Court held Defendants in contempt for failing to transfer prisoners found to be not guilty by reason of insanity and other seriously mentally ill prisoners to appropriate psychiatric facilities, among other reasons.
BOC’s inhumane treatment of prisoners with serious mental illness has been its most appalling failure. For decades, the Virgin Islands Bureau of Corrections has had a de facto policy of warehousing seriously mentally ill prisoners in violation of their due process rights under the United States Constitution—a practice that continues to this day. The cruelty of warehousing the mentally ill in prison is typified by the case of Jonathan Ramos. In 2002, Mr. Ramos was arrested for stealing a bicycle from a Saint Thomas K-Mart. The charges against Ramos were eventually dropped, but he languished as a prisoner at the CJC with inadequately treated Schizophrenia for over five years. In December 2007, Jonathan’s sister reported that her brother “no longer recognized her.” Eventually—and only after being found in contempt for its failure to transfer him—the BOC moved Jonathan Ramos to a stateside psychiatric hospital in Florida. In Florida, Ramos was released to the streets and was found sleeping in a public park—the victim of BOC’s callous indifference to his suffering.
Today, the CJC remains a dangerous facility where prisoners are subject to inadequate medical and mental health treatment, and violence.