Allegations of inhumane living conditions at the Hagåtña Detention Facility prompted District Court Chief Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood to have all parties tour the facility today.
A declaration filed by nine federal inmates and detainees housed at the Department of Correction’s HDF has placed a spotlight on the living conditions that the inmates say are inhumane and unconstitutional.
Former DOC Director Frank Ishizaki has gone on record stating that the conditions at the Department of Corrections are inhumane. Governor Lou Leon Guerrero also agreed with Ishizaki’s assertion following a tour of the DOC.
The allegations involve a lack of adequate medical care, insufficient nutrition, overcrowding, and a deteriorating facility.
U.S. Federal Public Defender John Gorman at a hearing on the prison conditions asked the Chief Judge to take a tour of the HDF to see if the allegations are true.
Today was that day, and while Gatewood was not present, the U.S. Department of Justice and the federal public defender were on site. Gorman says a lot of their concerns listed in the declaration were allayed by the site visit but there’s still work to be done
“We are still worried about the mattresses. We are worried about a non-working fire suppression system and we have ongoing concerns about the diet that we feel is insufficient,” Gorman said.
FPD attorney Brianna Kotke informed DOC Major Anotone Aguon that out of 30 federal inmates only two have not lost weight. The remaining 28 have lost about 40 pounds within five months as a result of the inadequate portions of food.
Aguon says that sometimes the weight loss is a choice by the inmates as he shares that all the meals are certified by a dietitian for size and nutritional value.
“Of course we get people who complain because they are used to getting more and eating more and maybe they don’t like the taste of the food so they complain about it. But everyone is provided three square meals a day,” Aguon said.
He added that accommodations are made for religious and medical dietary needs.
Kotke stated that the food issue may be something they will take up with the vendor Basil’s dietitian.
The food, however, is only one area of concern.
While DOC is making efforts to renovate the federal block and have completed painting addressing the plumbing and lighting issues, there are also medical and dental concerns that need attention, such as a delay in receiving treatment and the availability of doctors.
Aguon pointed out that the inmates have access to a confidential medical request box which is checked every 12 hours and followed up with a medical evaluation and referral if needed.
Gorman says they’re happy to see that many of their complaints have been responded to.