100% of DOC officers vaccinated for COVID, 95% of inmates vaccinated
Corrections Commissioner Wally Villagomez asked for a private meeting with Rep. Christina E. Sablan (D-Saipan) after the lawmaker asked him about reports that illegal drugs are being snuck into DOC and that some DOC officers may be using drugs themselves.
During budget hearing in the House of Representatives chamber Tuesday, Villagomez refrained from directly answering the question about drug use among DOC officers and asked that the matter be discussed in a closed-door meeting.
House Committee on Ways and Means chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) recommended to do the closed-door meeting through the House Judiciary and Governmental Operations Committee since Rep. Celina Babauta (D-Saipan) also had some questions she wanted to ask that would also fall in line with the closed-door meeting.
Sablan stated that there have been reports from both current and former inmates that they found it quite easy to get drugs into DOC. “Easier in some cases, according to some of these inmates, in DOC than it is on the streets,” Sablan said.
The lawmaker said it’s also been reported that a significant percentage of Corrections officials may be using drugs themselves. “Are you aware of this report?” Sablan asked the commissioner. That’s when Villagomez asked to answer the question in a closed-door meeting or maybe in Sablan’s office, saying there are some confidential thing that he does not want to mention in the public. That’s when Manglona said a separate meeting with Vilagomez will be done later.
Sablan agreed to discuss the matter offline after consulting with the House legal counsel Joe Taijeron whether the issue is an appropriate subject for an executive session.
In response to Sablan’s inquiry, Villagomez disclosed that the last time there was drug test for DOC officers was just last week. The commissioner also requested to talk about the drug test results in a closed-door setting.
Sablan noted that there is a bill pending in a House committee that aims to provide more clarity in the law as to contraband items getting into DOC. DOC director Georgia Cabrera said they participated in the drafting of that legislation.
House Committee on Ways and Means chair Rep. Donald M. Manglona (Ind-Rota) said a closed-door meeting with Villagomez will be scheduled at a later time.
On the vaccination issue, Villagomez said 95% of inmates and 100% of DOC officers have already been vaccinated for COVID-19.
Sablan said such high percentages are reassuring if DOC is going to be moving forward with reopening some of their programs.
For now, the Bible study program at DOC had been stopped because of the pandemic, Villagomez said.
He said the only program that is open is the outreach program, in which the inmates can help out any government agency that may need help with services such as cleanup or painting.
In response to Rep. Ivan Blanco’s (R-Saipan) question on budget matters, Villagomez said they are fine with the Gov. Ralph DLG Torres’ proposal, which aligned with the 2019 budget figure, but less that what he (commissioner) had proposed.
“I’m supporting the submission of the governor,” the commissioner said.