Overwhelmed agencies that deal with convicts need support, coordination

PRISON: The medium-security unit at the Department of Corrections Adult Correctional Facility in Mangilao is shown in January. Post file photo

One of the realities that became apparent following a recent legislative hearing on convicted sex offenders who preyed on children is the lack of money and expertise needed to protect the public from the release of such criminals once they're released from prison.

Adding another layer to the challenges — for the people in the government of Guam who are our public safety first line of defenses — is the lack of coordinated efforts to try to ensure that criminals do not prey on more victims after they're no longer behind bars.

At the legislative hearing Monday, conducted by the legislative committee on justice, Department of Corrections social worker Mark Perez said the Guam Parole Board often requests psychological evaluations, but it doesn't always receive one because of the workload of DOC's solo clinical psychologist.

The inmate population at DOC has "ballooned in the last several years," Perez said. "So one psychologist for over 600 to 800 clients is a lot of work."

It would be unrealistic for the community, elected officials and others in charge of public policy to expect one psychologist to do all of this work.

This issue has persisted but was not in the public's full view until a spotlight shone on it as a result of the recent arrest of Paul Santos Mafnas Jr., who stands charged in the alleged kidnap and rape case involving a 10-year-old girl as she waited for her school bus. Mafnas had prior convictions in what authorities have called a serial kidnapping and raping of three teenage girls in the 1990s. He received an early release from prison without a psychological evaluation and without the chemical castration required by law.

DOC Director Samantha Brennan acknowledged in the same hearing there has been no funding for the castration program, which became law in 2015. And no doctor is available on the island who could do the chemical castration.

Guam Behavioral Health and Wellness Center Director Therese Arriola also said her agency does not have a sex offender rehabilitation program.

Given all of these challenges, the Guam Parole Board, Judiciary, corrections department and behavioral health center really need to better coordinate their efforts.

It should also help the government of Guam do a better job of handling the problem if it speeds up the identification of sex offenders and other convicts who should be turned over the U.S. immigration authorities so they could be deported.

It's one thing for our justice system to be overwhelmed by prisoners and parolees whose home is Guam. It's another issue for Guam to be forced to continue to provide services to convicts who broke the law and must – also by law – be kicked out of here.

If the government agencies in charge of dealing with these problems aren't overwhelmed by the massive numbers of convicts in our prison system, then they will be able to better focus on the resources they will be provided with – for a smaller prisoner and parolee population.

It's true these agencies need more money to do their job right. It's also right to remove the burdens on the system that should no longer be Guam's problem to deal with. 

Multipronged, coordinated efforts will be key to protecting the community from being victimized by sex predators and other convicted criminals who go through a justice system revolving door.

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