Director Jose San Agustin says his goal is to rehabilitate all prisoners in an effort to reduce the prison population.
Guam – Guam’s prison population is breaking new records, according to Department of Corrections Director Jose San Agustin, with their numbers now at 800.
This follows a few years of the prison population being at a steady 700-plus.
At the turn of the decade, the prison population was steadily climbing from the 600s to the 700s and in the last couple years stayed within the 730 to 750 range. Today, Department of Corrections Director Jose San Agustin says it’s now in the 800s—the most it’s ever been since the prison was first built in the late 60s.
“You know with our population at DOC close to 800, at times we see up to 815, for a facility that was built in 1968 at a capacity for 250–we have exceeded our capacity,” said San Agustin.
San Agustin was one of the presenters at the University of Guam’s Western Pacific Conference on Public Administration and Policy Solution yesterday. Although he was invited to speak about how the Compact of Free Association is affecting DOC, he also talked about the need for reform within the entire department.
“I do not believe in punishment. I believe in rehabilitation, I believe in solutions,” he said. “My goal at the Department of Corrections is to allow–to rehabilitate each and every individual regardless whether they’re gonna be in there for life. What I wanna do is use those people to be able to educate them and get them back out to society and help those others, let them know that that’s not the place to be. But in the meantime, while they’re in there, my job is, I don’t care what they did. And I’ve told them that, I don’t care if you’re a murderer, I don’t care. What I care [about] is what I’m gonna make you be when you get out.”
San Agustin says that initially, to adapt to the growing DOC population, he was intent on building a new prison. But after meeting with federal officials and other stakeholders, the priority has shifted.
“What I want to do is build a new facility, a facility that looks like a learning center; a college campus. They know they’re criminals. As soon as they walk into the hallways, what they’re gonna see is ‘Welcome to the Department of Corrections Learning Facility.’ Positive. They already know they committed a crime. Let’s turn it around,” he described.
“On the other side, the federal, when they came here a couple months ago they said, ‘Director, you don’t wanna build a new prison. What you wanna do is rehabilitate them and get them out.’ Okay, I’ll do that. But I need a new prison because I don’t have classrooms to do it. I only have one classroom.”
In terms of numbers, however, San Agustin notes that about one-third of the prison population is made up of citizens of the Freely Associated States. But with GovGuam spending millions and millions of dollars to house them, they are only getting a fraction of this amount reimbursed.
“For 2011, we were provided $800,000 for Compact Impact. That was for our electronic locking and emergency generator. For FY 2012, we were given $3.5 [million]. For FY 2013, we were given zero from Compact Impact, $950,000 for FY 2014, which was provided for overtime.”