‘DOC has policies to account for tools that can be used as weapons’


The Department of Corrections has policies in place to account for all tools and other items that can be used as weapons, according to assistant attorney general Teresita J. Sablan and U.S. Department of Justice trial attorney Jeffrey R. Murray.

Sablan, as counsel for the CNMI government, and Murray, as counsel for the U.S. government, filed recently in the U.S. District Court for the NMI a final report supporting a joint motion that seeks the termination of a consent decree that the Commonwealth forged with DOJ 15 years ago to enhance prison conditions in the CNMI.

In that final report, Sablan and Murray stated, among other things, that the Commonwealth is in substantial compliance with the safety and protection from harm section.

On Sunday, Gerald Sablan, an inmate serving a life sentence for kidnapping and attempted murder, reportedly stabbed a female visitor with a toothbrush at the prison’s visitation area. The victim was injured and taken to the Commonwealth Health Center.

DOC confirmed the alleged attack. It was not clear how Sablan managed to bring a toothbrush into the visitation area.

DOC refused to release more details, saying the issue is still under investigation by both the Department of Public Safety and DOC.

DPS has yet to release information about the incident.

On Tuesday, DPS Commissioner James Deleon Guerrero told Saipan Tribune that DPS is currently investigating the incident in coordination with the Criminal Division of the Office of the Attorney General.

In the CNMI’s and DOJ’s final report, Sablan and Murray stated that the requisite mechanisms are in place to ensure adequate supervision of inmates.

“The facilities have video-monitoring in central command units, officers are equipped with radios that connect to the central command unit, and the perimeters of the facilities are secured,” the two lawyers said.

Sablan and Murray filed the final consent decree report pursuant to Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona’s order that directed them to file the report.

Manglona will hear on May 15, 2014, the motion to terminate the consent decree.

Last Jan. 27, Sablan and Murray informed the court that the Commonwealth has fulfilled its obligations under the consent decree. Sablan and Murray said the parties both agree that the CNMI “is in compliance with the requirements of the consent decree.”

Sablan and Murray agreed that an evidentiary hearing is not necessary because the U.S. government does not oppose the termination of the consent decree.

In 1978, the U.S. government investigated the CNMI’s adult and juvenile detention facilities. It then filed a lawsuit against the CNMI on Feb. 23, 1999. Two days later, DOJ and the CNMI entered into a consent decree.

The purpose of the consent decree was to improve the conditions of the CNMI’s detention institutions that were deemed to violate the civil rights of those detained at the facilities, and to safeguard against future violations.

The CNMI was forced to build the adult prison in Susupe under the consent decree. Construction of the new prison 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.

The construction of the Juvenile Detention Unit was completed and opened for occupancy in 2004.

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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