If the current trend continues, the total inmate population in the CNMI is estimated to double in the next four to five months, according to acting Corrections commissioner Vincent Attao yesterday.
Attao, who has been DOC commissioner since late May, said the inmate population was a little over 160 in February this year. Now, Attao estimates that there are about 250 to 270 inmates.
“In just the past four to five months we saw an increase,” said Attao, adding that the number of inmates vary all the time. “It’s just been a few months and we are already at the 250 mark.”
The department currently has 111 Corrections officers. Attao wishes to increase that number in fiscal year 2018.
“We are looking to recruit…at least an additional 18 officers,” said Attao during yesterday’s House Ways and Means Committee budget hearing. The additional number is not certain due to a lot of possible interferences such as dismissals. “We are hopeful that we are at least going to be in that range,” he said.
In total, the Department of Corrections is asking for a budget of $7.2 million for fiscal year 2018, while Gov. Ralph DLG Torres proposes a DOC budget of just $5.3 million.
Committee chair Angel Demapan (R-Saipan) said there are disputed utility bills that are currently being looked at by DOC.
Demapan also added that there is an additional $300,000 in professional services, which include counselors, physicians, nurses, and the like for the inmates. DOC currently lacks an in-house counselor and physicians and nurses.
Demapan said the rapid increase in the number of inmates is a “cause for concern.”
Despite the increase of inmates and the lack of manpower, Demapan described DOC as “doing well as a facility.”
“They have had no escapes to report for this year and the previous,” he said.