DOC to implement stricter visitation policies as they crack down on contraband

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There has been a spike in resignations since the high-profile arrest of several inmates and corrections officers.

Guam – Contraband issues seem to be at an all-time high at the Department of Corrections and while that may indicate success, the department says they will stop at nothing to crack down on drugs entering their facility.

They announced sweeping reforms they will be making in the future.

“We are cleaning our own house. We don’t need someone else to clean our house, we know what the problem is,” asserted Lt. Governor Ray Tenorio during a press conference at DOC today.

It seems like every other day there’s news of contraband that’s intercepted and prevented from entering the island’s prisons. But even as more of these cases are exposed, the Department of Corrections has tightening its grip on the rampant drug problem inside and outside the prison fence.

Some of the changes Lt. Gov. Tenorio says DOC has either implemented or is working on implementing include adjusting the visitation and delivery times, adding another 18 cameras to augment the 18 they currently have, installing cameras outside the perimeter of the compound to track down the vehicles traversing near or around the facility, introducing a commissary and prohibiting visitors from bringing sundries, procuring their own K9 unit and a reserve officer unit and possibly introducing a rather rare wardrobe change policy in which visitors will have to change into a DOC-approved and provided garment for contact visitation.

“If you wanna visit someone, you wanna have physical contact with them, and you’re wearing the clothes that you put on somewhere else, just like anybody else you can hide any number of things and it has been done for many, many years. So if we take out that, if we take out those hidden pockets in your pants or your dress or other parts of your garment in places where people are much less likely to be able to find the contraband, then we’re cutting that exposure,” noted Tenorio.

But with the spike in contraband and related arrests comes also a spike in officers leaving the department. There were four recent resignations and two retirements.

“We are seeing quite a bit of resignations. We are looking into that. The reasons behind the resignation letters were primarily for personal reasons,” said DOC Director Tony Lamorena. “I don’t wanna implicate anybody, they could have their own personal reasons.”

Tenorio added: “When you see that many resignations, there’s no direct–currently–correlation in the investigation in the [Operations] Green Vigilance to the resignation. But if ultimately the investigation that are ongoing reveal that there are connections then we’ll see.”

Another policy change DOC has implemented is turning over cases to the Guam Police Department more frequently. In the past, DOC has handled many of its contraband cases internally. Now they’re looking to pass the baton to GPD to process it criminally.

“While it may seem like there’s been an increase int he number of arrests due to drugs and contraband, the lt. governor, who’s tasked with overseeing the island’s public safety, points out that for the first time in several months the number of prisoners at DOC has gone down to below 700. 

The prison population reached an all-time high of over 800 last year.

“So while contraband and issues with the inmates and previous officers are the focus, we’d really like to focus and shift the focus hopefully soon on the mission of corrections which is reintegration and rehabilitation,” said DOC Deputy Director Kate Baltazar. “They came through our doors for a reason. How do we make them better before they leave us and that is really the core of what our focus should be.”