With the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration and Customs Enforcement not using the prison complex in Susupe to house all its detainees except for one at the moment, the CNMI government said yesterday it is open to accommodate inmates from Guam that has considered the idea more than once before. Local officials also said the Susupe prison complex provides adequate medical care to its occupants including the services of nurses, doctors, and a psychiatrist, but ICE cited unresolved deficiencies in medical care for detainees at the facility.
Gov. Eloy S. Inos separately said yesterday that the 120-day notice of intent to terminate an existing agreement between DOC and ICE on the use of the Susupe prison complex is a “matter for formality” given that ICE is sending its detainees from the CNMI to Guam and Hawaii anyway.
Inos said now that “the issue has come to light,” he would be discussing the matter further with Corrections Commissioner Ray Mafnas.
Mafnas said ICE could still piggyback on DOC's separate the Inter-governmental Service Agreement or IGSA with the U.S. Marshal Service on the use of the Susupe prison.
He said DOC and the U.S. Marshal Service have been in partnership for a long time, and because of an agreement between the two agencies, the Susupe prison continues to accommodate federal inmates through USMS.
Mafnas sent on Feb. 14 a 120-day written notice of intent to terminate the ICE-DOC IGSA. The effective date of the contract termination is June 17, 2013.
As of yesterday afternoon, they have yet to receive any communication from ICE regarding the 120-day written notice.
Mafnas also said the department is seriously considering housing Guam inmates at the Susupe facility “and we have discussed that in the past.”
“We certainly wanted to work with Guam. However, I believe the restriction or the obstacle is finances. Someone has to pay for the cost of moving anyone from any institution to ours,” he said.
He said he needs to run this again with the governor and Lt. Gov. Jude U. Hofschneider.
“I'm confident that Governor Inos would listen and see the merits but we have to be cautious because of the limited financial resources for here in the commonwealth and for Guam,” he said. “I want to help as much as I could. I don't mind helping our neighbors. It's just a matter of ensuring that we do not commit the Commonwealth into a tremendous financial burden. Somehow someone is going to pay. For the food alone we're estimating more than three quarters of a million dollars.in 12-month period.”
Corrections Division director Gregory Castro said “there's no formal communication from ICE explaining the reason” for sending detainees to Guam and Hawaii instead of placing them at the Susupe prison complex pursuant to the ICE-DOC agreement.
Castro, who has been with DOC for 15 years, said since the inception of the DOC-ICE agreement, “it was promised” that 350 beds will be reserved for ICE detainees. The number was later lowered to 100, then 50, then 25.
However, the maximum number of detainees that ICE brought to the Susupe prison was 22 and that was only for a day. Since the start of 2013, ICE brought only up to two detainees. At the moment, there's only one ICE detainee at the facility.
“So if you will, we were holding our part of the bargain. You know we made the place ready including offices for them because they're supposed to have administrative personnel and enforcement personnel here,” Castro said.
He said it's not cost-effective to reserve units for ICE detainees especially because they have to be lit and air-conditioned all the time even if there's only one ICE detainee. Moreover, ICE only pays for every detainee brought.
Castro and Mafnas said the $89 per ICE detainee per day has proven to be much lower than the actual cost of providing adequate housing to these detainees.
Mafnas, Castro, Capt. Georgia Cabrera, Capt. David Deleon Guerrero, and other DOC officers showed reporters yesterday afternoon the housing units reserved for ICE detainees as part of a tour of the $20.9-million facility that also has its own clinic with a nurse on-duty and a library.
Inos, in an interview yesterday, said in his understanding, the 120-day written notice of intent of termination of the DOC-ICE agreement “is really a matter of formality.”
“My understanding is that they are working on their own facility so I understand there's no need for continued occupancy of the correctional facility,” the governor said.
He also said that in the last report he saw, there has been an increase in the number of CNMI inmates that are needing the prison's pods or housing units as well.
The number of inmates at the Susupe prison complex has increased by 32 percent.
Lori K. Haley, spokeswoman for DHS' ICE, had said that a recent assessment of the CNMI prison complex by the ICE Health Services Corps revealed deficiencies in the medical care available to ICE detainees.
“Since the issues remain unresolved, ICE is currently using detention facilities in Guam and Hawaii to house its detainees,” she said.