Around 20 Department of Youth Affairs youth service workers told lawmakers Tuesday that they want to be known as officers of the law and paid the same as their counterparts at the Department of Corrections and the Guam Police Department.
The youth workers were testifying on two bills: Bill 244-35 and Bill 243-35, put forward by senators Amanda Shelton and Joe S. San Agustin, respectively.
One of the bills would see some $200,000 dedicated to reclassifying youth service workers as youth correctional officers, bringing their pay at parity with other uniformed personnel.
“I would argue that Youth Service Workers at DYA, are subjected to the same conditions and dangers as corrections officers are at DOC, as they, too, put their safety and well-being on the line each and every day, providing care and custody to youthful but also serious, chronic and sometimes violent offenders,” said Corrine Buendicho, a DYA youth development administrator.
Buendicho is also the widow of a long-time youth service worker, sharing emotional testimony on the years her late husband spent at DYA and the challenges he faced before he retired.
Youth service worker Shawn Nelson also testified at the public hearing Tuesday saying, “Over the decade I’ve been with the DYA, I’ve been attacked, spat at, urine and feces thrown at [me]. This is just some of what DYA officers are challenged with…and long hours we also endure.”
Several senators at the public hearing said they were shocked to learn youth workers weren’t already being paid as officers.
There are around 50 youth service workers at DYA.
If approved, the funds would be allotted from the projected tax revenue surplus of 2019, which is still awaiting an audit before any funds are doled out.