Judge expresses shock over detention facility conditions

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The inhumane and unconstitutional living conditions lawsuit filed by nine federal inmates and detainees housed in the Department of Corrections Hagåtña Detention Facility had a court hearing today.

There are several concerns that must first be addressed to determine how the complaints filed in the District Court of Guam will move forward.

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Although Federal Public Defender John Gorman asked the court to address the inhumane and unconstitutional conditions at the Hagåtña Detention Facility, Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood shared her concerns over whether the court has jurisdiction over the matter.

She pointed out that the complaints were filed under the criminal matters of the inmates and detainees, rather than a civil matter.

Gorman told the court that the matter was addressed criminally because the federal public defender’s office is barred from litigating civil cases.

“We can’t stand idly by. We had to bring this to the court’s attention,” Gorman said, further stating that his clients are indigent and would not be able to afford a civil attorney to represent them.

With this in mind, the Chief Judge recommended three actions:

* First, that the case be converted by the court to a civil matter;

* Second, that the US Attorney General’s Office handle the case which would name the Government of Guam and the DOC as defendants in the lawsuit, and;

* Third, that the federal public defender work with the US Marshals to remedy each issue presented by the 9 federal inmates over the next two weeks to see which can be remedied immediately.

Gatewood stated her shock at the allegations made in the declaration referencing the federal receivership the DOC was under and completed in 2017.

But some of the issues remedied previously are once again back in the spotlight as it involves similar allegations now presented by the inmates.

Gorman stated: “In 2017 DOC came up to standards now they have slipped significantly.”

He is asking Gatewood to take another tour of the facilities to evaluate the truth of the allegations. He also asked for the contract between DOC and the US Marshals Office be provided along with a list of all remedial actions taken by DOC in response to the declaration.

While these issues are addressed Gatewood has ordered FPD and the US Marshals to work together on remedies, setting a status hearing for Feb. 24, at which time they will address how to proceed with the matter.

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Jolene Toves
Jolene joined the PNC team in 2017, as a producer, co-anchor and investigative reporter covering law enforcement, courts and crimes. Notable coverage includes the Ehlert case, the Mark Torre Jr. trial, the Allan Agababa trial, exclusive pieces on the Life of a Drug Dealer/Addict, and Life behind bars...the story of Honofre Chargualaf and Kevin Cruz. In 2019, she was promoted to Assistant News Director and Lead Anchor. From 2015 to 2017 she served as Public Relations and Promotions Manager, for the Hotel Nikko Guam handling local radio and advertorial promotions, as well as produced and directed tv commercials for the hotel. Prior to this she worked with KUAM for three years as a reporter and segment host. She began her journalism career in 2012, working with Glimpses of Guam contributing to the Guam Business Magazine, R&R magazine, MDM magazine and the Marianas Business Journal.