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Slate Singles Out U.S. Virgin Islands For Its ‘Horrifying’ Treatment Of The Mentally Ill


CHARLOTTE AMALIE – Slate online magazine has singled out the U.S. Virgin Islands for its “horrifying” treatment of the mentally ill.

Slate says that “25 percent of the prison population” in the territory is comprised of people who are mentally ill.

An NPR report from 2007 noted that “the U.S. Virgin Islands also has the distinction of incarcerating people who were found ‘not guilty by reason of insanity’—which means they were too mentally ill to be convicted.”

The American Civil Liberties Union stated that the Virgin Islands is “unique” in all the United States for its treatment of the mentally ill.

“In other systems they are hospitalized, so they can receive a level of treatment that [they] simply cannot get at a jail,” the ACLU said. “In St. Thomas, these men remain prisoners, housed in a unit plagued with prisoner-on-prisoner assaults, as overworked and under-trained staff members are overwhelmed by a toxic mix of predatory and acutely ill prisoners.”

This 2015 study from the Urban Institute cautions that mentally ill inmates, who are typically jailed for trivial offenses such as trespassing, disorderly conduct, or drug use, tend to stay in jail longer than nonimpaired inmates, recidivate and return to jail more frequently, and cost local jurisdictions more to incarcerate.

Acting V.I. Health Commissioner Juan Figueroa-Serville did not respond to requests for an interview on this subject.

Slate magazine was created by New Republic editor Michael Kinsley in 1996. The Washington Post Company publishes Slate.

To read more please click on the following link:

juan figueroa serville

Health Commissioner Juan Figueroa-Serville

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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