DOC budget tackled

The Guam Legislature on Tuesday heard the budget proposal of the Department of Corrections.

As fiscal year 2020 nears, determining how much money a GovGuam agency will be funded is at the top of the Legislature’s agenda and at the table Tuesday was the Department of Corrections.

With a shortage of manpower, overworked DOC officers and the overall lack of resources, the Department of Corrections may require looking for a solution outside the box.

And while DOC was modest in its fiscal year 2020 budget request, referring to themselves as the government’s stepchild, senators showed their support by offering assistance in helping the department find ways to generate revenue.

One senator even went as far as saying: “Ask us for more money!”

That statement was made by Senator Louise Muna and it’s not one that is often heard at budget hearings.

“I was kind of shocked but at the same time grateful so we will be submitting a supplemental budget as requested and we will ask for more money and we will actually ask for as much money as we can in order for DOC to move forward in our mission,” DOC Director Samantha Brennan said.

DOC currently has 690 inmates and detainees housed at the Mangilao and Hagatna facilities.

Brennan said the department has struggled with overcrowding which is only amplified by being underfunded for years. But in order to get a leg up on the issues one factor needing to be addressed is properly staffing the facility with an additional 30 correctional officers.

However, this carries a price tag of about $1 million and does not include other positions which are vacant within the department, raising the question why is DOC asking for $2 million less?

“Based on all our needs and to accomplish our mission, we did have a cap. So our previous budget was I believe $26 million requested. And for this one, we requested for $24 million. And part of that was because we had to meet our budget ceiling. We were hoping to get some compact impact funds to fund our GMH so we were looking at that. So that’s why our budget was less. Moving forward with what the senators say, we will definitely put in our supplemental budget request and bring it up $2 million and hope for the best,” the DOC director said.

Senators acknowledged that if DOC was to at least get the same funding as fiscal year 2019, DOC would be off to a great start.

In addition to asking for more money, Senator Will Castro explored looking outside the box and finding other ways to generate revenue for the prison.

“I would like you to look if there is an opportunity to revisit the code or work with our federal partners so that asset forfeitures in part or in whole can be reverted back to DOC to subsidize their operations or GPD,” Castro said.

Currently, DOC houses both federal and local felons as well as those who are living on Guam under the Compact Impact agreement.

During the budget hearing, senators also explored the possible deportation of Compact Impact migrants to reduce the prison population and expediting the POST certification of new officers.

All in all Brennan is optimistic.

“I believe it was a very positive hearing and I am excited to move forward and coming out of here today was my first one but at the same time I believe that all the comments we got is going to give us the budget that we really need so I am appreciative for that,” Brennan said.