Legislation brings DepCor into compliance - KUAM.com-KUAM News: On Air. Online. On Demand.

Legislation brings DepCor into compliance

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 by Ken Quintanilla

Guam - Legislation is on the table aimed at helping the island's only correctional facility come into compliance with a federal court order. And stakeholders are hoping for quick action as the possibility of federal receivership looms.

It won't solve all the problems at the Department of Corrections but it's one step toward resolution. "I understand this bill is not all that it can and should be," expressed Vice Speaker B.J. Cruz. "But it is the skeleton and we just need to put the meat on it and make it beautiful and present it to Judge Munson." Today, a public hearing was held on Bill 22 introduced by the vice speaker. The measure would authorize the governor a half-million dollars in transfer authority to address a recent court order.

Attorney General Elizabeth Barrett Anderson said of the matter, "The current agreement of January 16, 2015 focuses predominately 90% on issues of health, and mental health, as well as oral health. A small 10% or just one paragraph refers to an issue of facilities, which is the locking system and other facility matters that on our tour of DOC related to the infirmary."

The court order also pertains to the locking system and other facility matters. Nearly 20 years after she signed off a 1991 settlement agreement, she intends to take the January 16, 2015 court order to completion. "My goal and objective and I know it's the goal and objective of the vice speaker is that we need to complete this, and if we don't we are a short distance away senators from the cliff of receivership again," said the AG.

DOC director Jose San Agustin in the meantime says he not only is in favor of Bill 22 but thanks lawmakers for their support. "You continue to support the men and women and all employees who work at DOC. Your actions to allow the governor of Guam to transfer $500,000, is an indicator that you are more than willing to help the Department of Corrections and this government get over this settlement agreement that's been on our shoulders for the past 23 years."

He adds a recently established Correction Settlement Working Group as well as a blue ribbon panel will help the department identify and assess the needs in order to comply with the court order. The attorney general added an idea for the costs of repairs for the locking system and infirmary should be determined following a walkthrough by the Department of Public Works held today.

Meanwhile as for an update on legislation reintroduced by Senator Brant McCreadie to build a new prison facility, a public hearing has not yet been scheduled. 

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