Ishizaki concerned DOC overcrowding has reached dangerous levels

Bill 99-36 proposes to use the 15% that is deposited into the General Fund by the pay-phone provider to ensure that all inmates and detainees can have no-cost telephonic services to contact their attorneys. (PNC file photo)
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Department of Corrections Director Frank Ishizaki is worried that overcrowding at the island’s detention facilities has already reached dangerous levels.

He took the Pacific News Center on a tour of the Hagatna Detention facility this morning and he’s appealing to island leaders to see just how bad things are.

There are two units at the Hagatna’s detention facility — on one side federal detainees are held in one unit while local detainees are held in another.

Ishizaki said both units are severely overcrowded and on average, there are only four officers on duty to maintain order.

“So there’s only four on duty for 180. So, yes, we are short-staffed. Never more than four. Does it make me nervous? Yes, it makes me nervous,” the DOC director said.

At the Hagatna detention facility today, 192 detainees were waiting behind bars.

DOC Maj. May Quitugua said that right now, these cells are only able to accommodate four individuals safely.

“But right now, each cell holds 7 to 8 prisoners. The population here currently is 85 and the safe occupancy rate is 30. Mind you, 30,” Quitugua said.

And it’s worse on the federal side.

“This housing unit was designed for a safe occupancy rate of 70, but we are now at 112. So we are overpopulated,” Quitugua said.

Ishizaki maintains that stiffer penalties for offenders is not the answer and more innovative solutions are needed

“They need to really come and see how things are and they can’t pontificate without a solid basis and I think … sometimes I think they are. What I would like to see is a shift towards more community corrections which means that we keep the lower risk convicts out of prison as much as we can and give them opportunities to prove that they can stay outside of prison without re-offending,” Ishizaki said.

A total of 36 new corrections officers are now in training but they won’t be ready for duty until May. When they do, Ishizaki said it will not solve DOC’s problems but ease them somewhat.