Thursday, 13 April 2017

DOC consent decree lifted

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A major milestone today, as the 26-year-old consent decree for the Department of Corrections is finally satisfied.  The news was cause for celebration for island leaders.

Guam - Elizabeth Barrett-Anderson was in the midst of her first stint as Attorney General in 1991 when she signed an agreement with the federal government to remedy Constitutional violations at the Mangilao prison.  More than a quarter of a century later, she was able to personally help close this difficult chapter for DOC, though Barrett-Anderson admits it should never have taken this long to satisfy the local District Court, now presided over by Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood. 

“She ruled from the bench.  [Judge Tydingco-Gatewood] said, ‘This case is terminated. Congratulations government of Guam, you’ve done a great job.’  And we have to also recognize — you know we often bash the federal government.  Perhaps there are reasons for it, but today the federal government also joined with the government of Guam and the people of Guam and said, ‘Good job.  We agree with the government.  We jointly move to dismiss and close this case.’  Again, you don’t see this too often.”

Following the official dismissal of the corrections consent decree this morning, a joint media conference was held with the A.G., Governor Eddie Calvo, and Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio, who detailed issues with medical coverage and internal security required not just the coordination of multiple local agencies, but also the collaboration with off-island subject matter experts.

“The people of Guam should be proud about this accomplishment, because it’s not simply a legal hurdle that we overcame — it’s the political and the public administration maturity that this government has been able to demonstrate to the federal government.  If we can do it here, we can do it at [Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center], we can do it at the Department of Education, we can do it at [the Guam Solid Waste Authority].  We have the expertise, all we need is the willpower.”

And to that point, Governor Calvo and AG Barrett-Anderson also agreed the ending of this consent decree can be used as positive momentum to help resolve the receivership for trash services, and other lingering legal mandates for clients of the Behavioral Health Center.

Despite the good news on this specific front, DOC is facing another challenge: a call from the Fire Department to fix its smoke alarm system.  Lt. Governor Tenorio confirms a solution is being worked on, and that the temporary measure of a fire watch is up to par with other government and private sector establishments who use the person-to-person process.

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