Guam gov: Corrections to accept drunk detainees

HAGATNA, Guam (AP) — Guam acting Gov. Ray Tenorio said the Department of Corrections will continue accepting intoxicated detainees, despite a memo stating otherwise from the department’s director.

Corrections director Jose San Agustin had issued a recent memo stating the department had established a new policy that would reject intoxicated detainees who don’t have a medical clearance, the Guam Pacific Daily News reported (http://bit.ly/153mLYH ). The policy, which would have shifted the burden of taking care of those detainees to the Guam Memorial Hospital, was the subject of a meeting that included, among others, Tenorio and representatives of the hospital, Judiciary, Guam Police Department and Office of the Attorney General.

Hospital administrator Joseph Verga said the hospital wasn’t consulted about the Corrections’ policy and doesn’t have the resources to accept and clear intoxicated detainees before they are moved to the corrections facility. He said shifting responsibility to the hospital would cause the hospital’s costs to “skyrocket.”

Tenorio said the department will continue to take those detainees “until we give notice of the contrary.”

During the meeting, San Agustin said the department doesn’t have the medical staff to provide 24-hour care. It has one doctor, a clinical psychologist and two nurses, one of whom is on leave, to deal with a population of 700. Of that number, 224 are inmates; the rest are detainees.

Accepting intoxicated detainees without the expertise to treat them may leave the department open to potential liability as it could “lead to a preventable death of the person under the influence,” he said.

San Agustin said a 2010 ruling that required mandatory imprisonment for people arrested for driving under the influence has meant an influx of intoxicated detainees who otherwise would have been booked and released.

But officials said at the meeting that shifting the responsibility to the hospital isn’t an acceptable solution to the situation.

One of the problems cited is the lack of a functioning infirmary at the prison. Tenorio and Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz asked what Corrections needed to try to address the issue in-house, short of a new infirmary.

Department physician Dr. Raja Saad, said the prison needed five nurses to be able to build a round-the-clock schedule. He said corrections officers aren’t trained to assess detainee health and his contract doesn’t allow him to work at Corrections after hours.

Cruz said he’d been asking San Agustin for months what the prison needs, but San Agustin had not responded.

San Agustin said he would provide the governor’s office and Cruz with cost estimates for additional staff.

Lawmakers are scheduled to begin discussing next year’s budget in two weeks.

blog comments powered by Disqus