Department of Corrections makes case for new prison - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Department of Corrections makes case for new prison

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - While the amendment to the budget bill to build a new prison was shot down yesterday, the Department of Corrections, in fear of a possible federal receivership, is continuing its efforts to let lawmakers know the immediate need to move forward.

Agency director Jose San Agustin has made his plea to the Guam Legislature, saying, "I did ask for an audience with Madame Speaker to convey that same concern to allow that prison bill to be placed on the floor so they can make a decision as a whole."

In a meeting today with Speaker Judi Won Pat together with a dozen DOC employees, San Agustin reiterated the need to move forward with legislation to build a new correction facility. It was Thursday when Senator Brant McCreadie tried to include his Bill 172 to the miscellaneous provision of the budget bill however it failed to be heard. Won pat says there's a possibility of discussing the measure as a standalone bill. He said, "The main concern I had is a dedicated fund to make sure it doesn't impact the General Fund."

DOC has indicated they are not asking for anymore outside of what's being budgeted for them. Senator McCreadie said, "We have identified possible funding sources within the $25 million appropriations we have given to Department of Correction and we have found other funding source possibilities that we can use toward Department of Corrections."

San Agustin meanwhile says if heard on session floor and hopefully passed, it will allow him to recruiting other agencies and sources to help refine the need of building this new prison. "It's design, places men and women in a very dangerous situation it's condition allows for potential lawsuits which I cannot afford to pay lawsuits so I need as a director to be aggressive and move forward and get something done 0305 and I just ask they consider this bill and put on the floor and let the rest of the senators determine," he said.

But it's not just a lawsuit San Agustin wants to avoid as he says doc is close to being subjected to a federal receivership, saying, "It's smart that a facility be addressed now so that five years down the road we won't be subjected to a federal receivership that is somewhat hanging over."

He adds as outside parties continue to monitor what happens at doc, he doesn't want Guam to end up like California where its prison was taken over by a federal receivership. And while only a dozen participated in this morning's meeting, more hope to make their voices heard as doc has started a petition in the event the bill does not make it to session floor. "Again, here's a list of petition folks that are concerned with regards to the construction bill that has not been placed on the floor for discussion and simply in a nice way say please consider it because we care and here we are, here's our signatures."

Won Pat meanwhile says she is committed to working closely DOC. So what's the bill's likelihood? :"All those other things about a dedicated funding source is critical to this everything else can be boiler plate language to lease, built and not necessarily operate, but it could be, but it depends what it is the body wants to see," he said.

McCreadie meanwhile says if the prison does go into federal receivership it would "catastrophic" to the General Fund. "This all boils down to one main objective is to build a new facility to protect our resources to protect our employees and to protect their families and ultimately to protect the public from safety," he said.
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