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Thursday, April 17, 2014

CNMI govt, DOJ finalizing end of 1999 consent decree

The CNMI government and the U.S. Department of Justice are currently working on a joint request for the federal court to end the consent decree that the Commonwealth forged with DOJ in 1999 to address conditions of the old prison.

At a status conference in the U.S. District Court for the NMI on Friday, assistant attorney general Teresita Sablan, counsel for the CNMI government, told the court that a joint motion is being finalized to terminate the consent decree.

Jeffrey R. Murray, a lawyer with the DOJ Civil Rights Division, who appeared at the hearing telephonically, echoed Sablan.

Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona set another status conference on Jan. 6, 2014. That hearing will, however, be vacated if the parties reach a resolution before Jan. 6, Manglona said.

Also present at the hearing were Department of Corrections Commissioner Ray Mafnas, DOC director Gregory Castro, and DOC captains Georgia Cabrera and Jose Pangelinan.

In June, Sablan told the court that medical care for inmates and detainees and the safety of juvenile detainees—the two outstanding issues in the consent decree—have already been addressed.

The CNMI was forced to build the adult prison in Susupe under the consent decree after DOJ sued the government over the then-deplorable conditions of the old prison. Construction of the new prison facility in Susupe began in 2002 with an initial cost of about $17 million that later ballooned to $20.9 million. The new prison opened in 2008.

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