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DepCor director: inmates can easily break locks

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Over the last several weeks we've brought you stories about the Department of Corrections' court-ordered deadlines it must meet to provide adequate health and mental care to inmates and detainees. And while a part of the court order is for DepCor to repair its electronic locking systems during an oversight hearing at the Legislature, director Jose San Agustin revealed that inmates can easily break out of their cells.

As she did earlier this week during a status conference in federal court, Attorney General of Guam Elizabeth Barrett Anderson provided an update to lawmakers on progress being made to meet court ordered timelines to improve conditions at the Department of Corrections.  A part of those improvements include fixing the electronic locking systems. During Thursday's oversight hearing it was a question from Senator Brant McCreadie, that opened the door to just how serious the problem really is.

"That's scary, that's very scary Jose, very much ," said the senator. San Agustin admitted that inmates can easily get out of their cells, with McCreadie asking, "Do they pop locks at DOC and offend other inmates or prison personnel?" San Agustin said, "Let me give you a straight answer. I do have a case I'm investigating at this point and my suspicion is that when you have a facility that's 23 and 1 , 23 hours inside,  one hour for fresh air and that one individual authorized to go out for fresh air for one hour and two other individuals that were supposedly as indicated by the officers that they were sure that they locked those individuals in their cells during that process of that one individual that was out now there's three of them two that were not authorized."

The incident the director is referring too occurred last month in the Maximum Security Unit, where the most dangerous inmates are housed. As we reported two detainees were able to get out of their cells and attack another detainee who was outside for fresh air. "And you're saying it's because the inmates know how to pop the locks?" the senator asked. "Yes, that is correct," he responded.

He also confirmed this is possible at any time.

A request for proposal for automated locking systems will be out by the end of this week with an award by May and construction set for summer.

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