5 inmates seek court’s help to get commissary money


Five inmates at the prison in Susupe have asked the federal court for help, accusing the Department of Corrections of not returning to them the money in their commissary accounts, despite the commissary store’s closure since July 2019.

Francisco Q. Guerrero, Luis C. Babauta, Joaquin R. Lizama, Manases Masga Manglona, and Reynaldo A. Manila each wrote U.S. District Court for the NMI Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona, all inserted in one envelop, asking for help on what they should do.

Manglona received the letters last Nov. 19.

In his letter, Guerrero said that DOC Commissioner Wally F. Villagomez issued a directive memorandum last Oct. 2, stating that, “with the temporary closing of the commissary, effective immediately all commissary drop-off is ceased until further notice.”

Guerrero said that the prisoners, including himself, asked Villagomez last Oct. 14 to withdraw their money from the commissary account because they don’t know when the store is going to re-open.

Guerrero said he and other inmates don’t know about their outstanding balance in their commissary accounts.

Commissary stores sell primarily grocery items.

Manglona issued an order yesterday granting permission to the inmates to amend their complaint, saying she liberally construed the letters as a civil rights complaint.

The judge said all civil complaints must include a “short and plain statement of the claim showing that the pleader is entitled to relief.”

She said the complaint does not need to include detailed allegation, but it must contain “sufficient facts to state a plausible claim.”

In this case, Manglona said, the complaint is deficient because the inmates never indicate which officials or entities they intend to name as defendants and what relief they seek.

The judge ordered the inmates to amend their complaint to include the names of the individuals and/or entities they are suing and the relief sought.

Manglona said the inmates may file an amended complaint by placing it in the prisoner mail at the DOC on or before Dec. 30, 2019.

Failure to do so, she said, will result in the dismissal of this case.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a senior reporter of Saipan Tribune. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism and has covered all news beats in the CNMI. He is a recipient of the CNMI Supreme Court Justice Award. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@Saipantribune.com
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