‘NMI govt saves $1.55M in prison costs at a minimum’


With 10 more individuals graduating from the CNMI Drug Court Program yesterday, the CNMI government has saved at least $1.55 million in incarceration costs, according to Superior Court Associate Judge Teresa Kim-Tenorio.

The program now has 34 graduates, including the 10 new ones, according to Kim-Tenorio at the 6th CNMI Drug Court graduation ceremony at the Pedro P. Tenorio Multi-Purpose Center yesterday.

The CNMI Drug Court Program itself is turning three years old.

With the ceremony yesterday, the drug charges against the 10 graduates were dismissed with finality.

In a later interview, Kim-Tenorio, who handles the drug court, disclosed that, of the program’s 34 graduates, five have been re-arrested on drug charges. That means an 85% success rate, which Kim-Tenorio described as “very good.”

The program currently has over 40 active participants, including one who just pleaded guilty yesterday to drug trafficking.

There are about seven or eight more on the wait list, Kim-Tenorio said.

“When I say waiting, that means they need to go through the clinical assessment. There is an assessment process. And then, all of that is put together into a report and presented to the court and I’m waiting for that,” she said.

Kim-Tenorio said she is very proud of all the 10 graduates. She noted that about eight or nine of them have completed the full two years of the program.

“I feel that they are better prepared. And I also feel that they are fortunate because the drug court is getting older. We are almost three years old,” she said.

That includes learning every day about addiction and about improving the program.

The judge described as “amazing” the government’s and the private sectors’ acceptance and participation in the program. In the beginning, there were only one or two private companies that were willing to join the program. “Now there are so many,” Kim-Tenorio said, citing that private companies have now reached out to them.

“We tell exactly what’s going on and they take the chance on them and we really, really thank our private businesses for giving them a chance, and giving them the opportunity to prove themselves,” she said.

Kim-Tenorio said their caseworkers check up on all the graduates periodically.

“In my chamber, I have a wall and I list all the graduates’ name. and I look at it every day. It’s literally right next to me,” she said.

For the ones on the list that she has not seen recently, she would inquire about that specific graduate with the case worker. She said caseworker would then call the person to find out.

Before moving to dismiss the charges against the 10 graduates, assistant attorney general Chester Hinds urged them not to take their sobriety for granted and not return to the drug court.

“I have a little suggestion. Do not go out and party tonight. Because this graduation is not the end of the road. This little graduation is just the beginning,” Hinds said.

Dr. John L. Doyle III, who served as the keynote speaker at the ceremony, said addiction is an ailment and he is so proud of the CNMI for stepping up by establishing the drug court program.

Doyle said what is more important is that the drug court participants have the support of the government, business sector, community, and their families.

“Because we believe that you [want to] to change your life,” he said. “This is only the beginning. You’re just starting. You are warriors and we will fight together and we will win.”

He described the graduates as warriors because they protect their sobriety and that incarceration is never an answer to an ailment but treatment.

The graduates are Carina Castro, Lorraine Ada, Herman Angui, Emerita Camacho, Vicente Castro, Jessica Leon Guerrero, Jeff C. Magofna, Tara Namauleg, Jose Ngeskebei, and Charles C. Torres.

One of the new drug court graduates, Ada, said she is now 510 days sober—a feat that drew much applause from Kim, drug court team members, and the audience that included Lt. Gov. Arnold I. Palacios, some lawmakers, law enforcers, and community members.

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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