Concerns over psych evaluation raised in parole roundtable

Speaker Therese Terlaje (PNC file photo)

Guam – Prior to his release, the Guam Parole Board requested for a psychological evaluation for convicted sex offender Paul Santos Mafnas Jr. but did not receive one, according to chairperson MiChelle Hope Taitano.

Taitano responded to questions asked by Senator Therese Terlaje during a roundtable discussion Monday afternoon. Terlaje, who has legislative authority over the body, asked if a mental health evaluation or any evaluation was provided to the parole board before Mafnas’ parole hearing.

Taitano said, “One was requested but we did not receive one.”

When asked if there are other reports provided to the board, she said, “Not that I am aware of ma’am.”

The committee on justice convened the discussion to determine if there is adequate assessment, treatment or rehabilitation for repeat criminal sexual conduct offenders – and if any such tools are currently being used or should be incorporated into sentencing and parole.

Participants from the Judiciary, Office of the Attorney General, Department of Corrections, Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center, and Public Defenders Service Corporation discussed Guam’s sentencing laws, rehabilitation programs and parole for repeat sexual offenders, particularly when committed against children.

Terlaje used Mafnas’ case as an example, and talked about the circumstances of his release in 2014. Mafnas plead guilty in 1999 and was sentenced to 27 years imprisonment plus 5 years parole.

He served 18 out of 27 years, which was 67 percent of his sentence. He was granted parole in 2014 and released in 2018, after four years.

During the discussion it was revealed that psychological evaluations are often requested by the parole board to be included in parole investigation reports.  However, these evaluations are not always conducted or made available to the parole board before hearings are held.

Taitano said  that in light of the Mafnas case, no hearings will be held unless the parole board has completed psychological evaluation on the offender.

Key findings

There were several other key findings from the roundtable

According to DOC officials, 27 parole cases have been granted since 2014. Out of that number, victims in nine cases opposed the release of the parolee.

Prior to 2017, there were no rehabilitation or treatment programs available on Guam for repeat CSC offenders.  According to DOC, they recently instituted a Sex Offender treatment program, based on cognitive behavior interventions (CBI) best practices, but only 15 people can be put in this program.

Risk assessments are not catered to criminal sexual contact repeat offenders and this risk may not be adequately known by judges, DOC, and the parole board.

Current reality is that criminal sexual conduct offenders will continue to be released at the expiration of sentence without accurate risk assessment, without any treatment and without further monitoring required, according to the senator’s office.

Terlaje said, “All relevant information and risk assessment must be made available.  We can’t pretend to know the risk.  We must all unite and act immediately to prevent repeat offenses and to protect our community. If we can’t get the correct information to ensure the safety of children, we should put a moratorium on parole.