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Guam Correctional Issues Plague Prisoner Medical Care

For twenty-three years a federal receiver has overseen Guam's troubled correctional system, but unfortunately for prisoners, medical care still appears to be substandard. According to a status report issued in the past two weeks, of 144 prisoners seeking some form of treatment from correctional medical staff, 97 were never seen. Apparently, that's not the only problem the system is facing.

At the most recent status hearing in federal district court in Guam, Judge Frances Tydingco-Gatewood commented that it was "scary" that prison officials appear to be unsure of their course of action, and had no plan how to bring correctional operations into compliance, despite the issuance of a court order to do so.  The judge indicated that if no plan is forthcoming that she would come up with one of her own.

The judge's concerns were shared by the Assistant U.S. Attorney for Guam Mickel Schwab, who said, "It's clearer now, more than ever, that the territory does not have a credible plan to ensure (prisoners') access to (medical) care.  Its efforts to develop one are insufficient and inmates are suffering as a result." Prisoner-rights advocates have noted that many of the problems result from the Guam officials' inability to follow accepted health standards in the prison, resulting in an outbreak of tuberculosis in recent years. Also contributing to prisoner health problems are the issues of chronic overcrowding and staff shortages in all departments. The prison says that it is still trying to fill vacancies and claimed to be in the process of hiring and training additional staff that will ease the problems at the facility.

The most recent court-ordered status report on conditions at the Guam prison, submitted by the Attorney General of Guam, showed that most prisoners with mental issues and dental problems also were not served.  Of the 25 prisoners seeking mental health services, only 9 were seen.  Of the 34 prisoners seeking attention for dental complaints, none were seen.  It is little wonder that there was one suicide attempt.  The same report indicated that the Guam DOC had identified qualified candidates for prison medical staff, and correctional officer positions.

Guam is an island territory of the United States located in the western Pacific Ocean and the site of one of the largest Naval and Marine facilities in that area. See: Document 281, 91-cv-20, U.S. District Court for the District of Guam, 2014.

Source: Pacific Daily News

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