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All-hands approach needed to fix DOC

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - It's going to take a multi-branch approach by the local government to address the conditions at the Department of Corrections - that was the general consensus from a special roundtable held this morning.

There's no denying the conditions at DOC need to be addressed immediately. "I guess this meeting is to formulate an opinion of what direction we really need to go in," said Senator Brant McCreadie. Before a roundtable hosted by the senator this morning, members from all three branches of government and several stakeholders offered their input for the long standing problem at the agency.

Director Jose San Agustin says the prison's current condition does not serve the best interest of the people of Guam, noting, "It's clear what the conditions of the facility is at, so what I'm soliciting here during this table discussion is solution from every agency this is in fact a community issue at hand which should engage every entity of government."

Several events led to today's roundtable starting with an audit from the Office of Public Accountability, with public auditor Doris Flores Brooks saying, "The present condition is deplorable."

The report outlined how DOC has been operating at 190% over capacity and cited poor conditions and an overwhelming detainee population. Brooks says the issue is multi-faceted and needs to be approached by all branches. "What you do with detainees will have a rippling effect what you do at the prison you prosecute and prison more people it will have an effect on the prison, the public wants to feel safe, so all of these are issues that are multi-faceted," she said.

For the Guam Legislature, Senator McCreadie introduced his prison construction bill once again hoping for a solution. "The road we're on is to federal receivership which would be catastrophic to our General Fund, and if we learn anything from this, I think we should take action on this which is the prison."

The bill currently sits in Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz's Committee on Appropriations. Cruz said, "We need a master plan and I'm glad you started the discussion off of that because that's where we need to end this discussion, invite some people to help us write the master plan and then we can move forward."

For the Governor's Office, DOC has asked Adelup to create a special task force - a recommendation from the OPA. The governor's special assistant and former senator Chris Duenas says there's a step beyond current law authorizing a new prison facility that needs to take place. "But it's clear in the current public law that's in the books that there will be legislative requirement at the end of the day to follow through and see to the end and that's our position at this point," he said.

And for Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson, she returns to the office two decades later and it's the same story. "If I say 20 years ago we needed to do this, we need to do it today as well, we need a new prison from my perspective coming into the office right now, I have to focus on a settlement consent decree that I approved 20 years ago and I come back 20 years (later) and it hasn't been resolved, that's a big issue for me, senator," she stated.

And while she's quite aware of the two receiverships the territory has been under - for then-Department of Mental Health and the Ordot Dump, her goal is to prevent a third from happening. "So my commitment is to try to resolve that consent, close it down," she said. "I will fight every effort to add more into that."

As for the courts, acting administrator Josh Tenorio, he informed stakeholders he's reviewing doc's detention list and comparing it to the Judiciary's numbers.

In the meantime, Director Jose San Agustin says he will be submitting a supplemental budget to the Guam Legislature in the next to address some of the repairs at DOC. As for the status of Bill 5, it remains in Vice Speaker Cruz's committee and no public hearing has been set yet. 
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