Legislation builds much-needed new prison - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Legislation builds much-needed new prison

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by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It's considered needed now more than ever and today legislation was finally introduced to construct and renovate the Department of Corrections.

"This is not a piece of legislation to improve the quality of life of the client at Department of Corrections, this is a piece of legislation to improve the institution and to take that black cloud over this institution," said Senator Brant McCreadie. And after weeks of talk he has introduced Bill 172, otherwise known as The Department of Corrections Initiative Act of 2013.

"We've been talking about it for 25 years, we've been in a federal settlement with the federal government for the last 23 years. We're overcrowded, understaffed and not efficient, and I think that will all end once this bill is passed, once we turn dirt on a new prison," he said.

The bill aims to construct a modern, secure and safe correctional facility by authorizing the construction and renovation of DOC. The governor on behalf of DOC is further authorized to enter into a financial agreement with one or more contractors for the financing, design, construction, collateral equipment and maintenance of the new facility. The design of the facility would include efficient use of space that will allow for DOC to enhance rehabilitation programs.

Something DOC director Jose San Agustin says is detrimental, "The folks incarcerated deserve a better program, a rehabilitation program, educational program that we've been trying to build and expand at DOC," he said.

As for funding, McCreadie says early estimates range between $30 million to $50 million. However he says the goal is minimize costs and become as efficient as possible. He adds while the language in the bill has helped in identifying $200,000 to $300,000 in funding sources, the additional finances will be through a collaboration with GEDA.

Deputy administrator Mana Silva Taijeron explained the lease or lease back arrangement identified in the measure, saying, "The lease back option is one that we've experienced before 1936 we have four schools that are under the lease back program and it is a viable tool and its actually probably the best possible financing for this deal."

The bill further outlines an option for a prison industry something several prisons throughout the U.S. are funded by the ones they sustain. "And I think it's important that we're not just introducing language to build a new prison, we're also asking the administration of this prison to work with us to facilitate these programs because they're the only ones who can make it as efficient as possible," said McCreadie.

As for the design, the new prison is set to be built as one of the most modern facilities the territory has ever seen. And as stressed time and time again, the language in the bill addresses federal and constitutional mandates that need to be followed in order to provide a complete correctional facility which would include an adequate infirmary.

The measure is a bipartisan effort with 10 cosponsors - five Republicans and five Democrats. And like Senator McCreadie, Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio hopes to see dirt turned by the end of next year. "I really hope in my final message that this bill doesn't die in committee that it sees and comes to fruition this term. We cannot wait any longer," he said.

We should note McCreadie says outside investors have shown interest that could help with the financing, some of whom are coming to Guam this month. 

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