DOC admits they sometimes make mistakes in medicine delivery to inmates


Department of Corrections Commissioner Vincent S. Attao and Division of Corrections director Gregory Castro have admitted that their corrections officers at times do make mistakes in medicine delivery.

Attao and Castro, through counsel assistant attorney general Hessel E. Yntema IV, however, have denied allegations that they have not provided inmate William Mathewson psychiatric and treatment since February 2017.

Attao and Castro denied they have not provided Mathewson prescribed medications for mental health in a timely and regular basis.

The two DOC officials also denied allegations that they have subjected some inmates to excessive and unreasonable solitary confinement.

Attao and Castro disclosed that DOC lacks the facilities to actually put an inmate in “solitary confinement” as it is commonly understood.

Attao and Castro discussed the conditions of Mathewson and other inmates at DOC in their response to a lawsuit filed in federal court against them by Mathewson and 13 other prisoners.

There are 15 inmates named as plaintiffs in the lawsuit. But according to Attao and Castro there are actually 14 as one plaintiff, Ji-Jing Borja, is no longer an inmate.

Mathewson, a farmer/fisherman who has been serving a 15-year prison term for stabbing and seriously injuring a Rota doctor with a fishing spear, is suing, along with other inmates, Attao and Castro.

Mathewson and the 13 other prisoners, through counsel Jeanne H. Rayphand, filed the lawsuit in federal court to remedy the defendants’ alleged failure to provide them with constitutionally adequate medical care, mental health care, dental care, and eye.

The 13 other inmates are Steven Aguon, Ray Anthony Babauta, Joseph Barto, George Cruz, Donald Hocog, Nena Langu, Wei Lin, Joaquin Lizama, Daniel Mauricio, Carlos Ramangmau, Alfredo Reyes, Price Shoiter, and Xinqiang Zheng.

The inmates are suing Attao and Castro for cruel and unusual punishment for allegedly providing them inadequate medical care and inadequate mental health treatment, and subjecting them to solitary confinement.

The inmates alleged that Attao and Castro subjected them to excessive solitary confinement, in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.

In Attao’s and Castro’s answer to the lawsuit, Yntema said the plaintiffs were assigned to and resided in an ordinary cell in an ordinary “pod” where ordinary prisoners are kept.

Attao and Castro denied allegations of Mathewson’s co-plaintiffs’ allegations that they have not provided them with medical care and treatment.

Yntema said all or some of the inmates’ claims for relief are barred by the Prison Litigation Reform Act, including the requirement of exhaustion of administrative remedies and grievance procedures.

Yntema said plaintiffs have failed to exhaust administrative remedies.

The government lawyer said the Commonwealth enjoy sovereign immunity and may only be sued in certain waived capacities.

Yntema said plaintiffs’ claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

Yntema asked the court to dismiss the lawsuit with finality.

In their lawsuit, the inmates asked the U.S. District Court for the NMI to issue a judgment declaring that Attao and Castro have failed to provide constitutionally adequate medical care, mental health care, dental care, and eye care to them and other prisoners in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments.

The inmates requested the court to declare that the defendants have subjected them and other prisoners to excessive solitary confinement in violation of the 8th and 14th Amendments.

Rayphand, of the Northern Marianas Protection & Advocacy Systems Inc., asked the court to provide Mathewson psychiatric care and treatment, and medication for mental health on a regular basis.

Jerry Ray, an inmate, has recently also a separate lawsuit in federal court against Attao, Castro, and four other DOC officials suing for allegedly subjecting him to solitary confinement and isolation and failing to provide him adequate mental health care. The two officials have denied the allegations.

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

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