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DepCor subject of oversight hearing

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The Department of Corrections is under the watchful eye of not only the feds, but local lawmakers, too. In an oversight hearing held Wednesday afternoon, it became apparent that the agency couldn't tell all.

Jose San Agustin said, "I know we owe answers to the public. They deserve answers. But let's not rush into this because no one is going to benefit. Let's make sure we do it right so that those who are responsible, including myself, are held accountable." As the DepCor director faced off with lawmakers Tuesday afternoon, he promised there would be answers soon enough as to how accused rapist Meisy Aliwis was able to break free from the Mangilao compound last month.

Senator Tom Ada said, "I just want to know when can we come in here and I don't want to use the word 'hide' behind the cover of an investigation is ongoing. But I think you've answered my question. 60 days and we're not going to be able to deflect questions because an internal investigation is ongoing." San Agustin added, "And you will never see me hide."

Aliwis escaped in the cover of night at the height of Typhoon Dolphin. On a Saturday he scaled fences and gained access to a roof before jumping over another fence. He was reported missing on Tuesday and captured Wednesday. As a result of the ongoing investigation, nine corrections officers were placed on administrative leave. On Tuesday afternoon however, it was revealed they've since returned to work but with different assignments.

This news came as a surprise to Senator Brant McCreadie, who said, "So basically, the part of the problem with the escape you could have let back into the prison? You're not sure? By bringing the nine officers back." San Agustin said, "The investigation will continue to move forward even though these individuals are placed back in the facility. We have enough reason to believe we have enough information to safely place them back on duty."

While lawmakers pried into how a detainee could go missing for days unreported, San Agustin noted that past escapes were a result of insufficient equipment. You may recall now convicted murder Keith Jermaine Garrido was able to escape a DepCor vehicle en route to his court hearing. San Agustin reported to lawmakers he didn't fire any officers in that case, saying, "You don't want to fire an individual because you failed to provide him the tools. That's where you have to come into play as management and it's unfair to terminate this individual. There was an escape but it's not fully their fault."

The prison population to date is 777, including detainees. Although in the past San Agustin noted the prison was nearing a "state of emergency," he retracted that statement at Tuesday's oversight hearing saying the prison's main plague is overcrowding - an issue he's committed to resolving. "I don't intend to go anywhere just to let you all know. I'm going to dig deeper into this because all the reason the problem continues to exist and we know it continues to exist and it's unacceptable for my style in saying that I need to be able to empower people below me," he said.

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