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Blue Ribbon Commission tours island prison

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 by Krystal Paco

Guam - It's all hands on deck to get the Department of Corrections up to standards in order to evade what could be the third federal receivership for the territory.

At the island's prison the newly-established Blue Ribbon Commission met for the first time this morning.

It's full circle for newly-elected attorney general Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson. "The good news is that the Department of Corrections in twenty years has accomplished 90 percent of the original settlement agreement," she proclaimed.

Back in 1991, Barrett-Anderson was the AG who signed-off on the settlement agreement that outlined what needed to happen to keep DOC out of federal receivership.

Today, it appears GovGuam is getting one last chance to finish the play. This after an order from Senior District Judge Alex Munson that requires GovGuam address the prison's outstanding issues. "There are 35 points in the January 16th order. 34 of them refer to medical, mental health, and dental. Only one of the 35 refers to facilities, which is the locking system," she said.

And the clock is ticking. With only eight months to come into compliance, Governor Eddie Calvo signed an executive order on Thursday that establishes the Blue Ribbon Commission, a working group to do just that. Players include Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz, DOC, the Department of Administration, General Services Agency, Public Health, Public Works, Guam Fire Department, and the Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center. The team is led by the AG's Office and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio.

The players are divided into two teams: one to address the medical, mental health, and dental needs and the other to address the electronic locking system which is estimated to cost $3.1 million to replace.

Tenorio said, "We're expecting you to help us get over this hurdle. It means if you have electricians that are going to be coming from DPW to look at the electrical systems here because we need to get it done well they need to prioritize this."

Standing by on the sidelines ready to assist is the Guam Legislature. Immediately after the court order was issued, Vice Speaker Cruz introduced Bill 22 that provides a half million dollars for the prison.  Cruz said, "Whatever needs to be done, if it means I have to amend the budget to give DOC one more nurse to comply with the nurse requirement or however much it's going to take, it's there."

But will the rejuvenated efforts to the final stretch be enough? Acting as the referee is independent monitor Bradley Klemm. "As a monitor I've been very frustrated over the years at the inability to resolve this they need to be resolved and if they're not resolved, the court is going to do the same thing it did at the department of mental health and with garbage. I'd like to encourage everyone to work hard," he said.

The Commission's next meeting is scheduled for February 2nd at 4 p.m. at the Governor's Office. 
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