‘It’s like a never-ending battle’: Virus outbreak at prison delays court hearings

CORRECTIONAL FACILITY: A tower is seen at the Department of Corrections Adult Correctional Facility in Mangilao on Jan. 25. Post file photo.

Albert Torres Tedtaotao, the man who was shot while he allegedly burglarized a Dededo barbershop last month, was set to answer to the charges in an indictment handed down by a Superior Court grand jury Wednesday.

But he, along with 11 others behind bars in the Department of Corrections facilities, had their arraignment hearings postponed after it was said in court that the defendants contracted COVID-19.

“The individuals are in quarantine. Given that there are so many and to reduce the potential exposure to staff or any other personnel, I am going to move the following hearings,” said Magistrate Judge Jonathan Quan, who rescheduled the hearings to Oct. 27. “I blocked off that date for the quarantined ones to give them some time to heal and get out of quarantine.”

Out of the 570 inmates and detainees currently at the Department of Corrections facilities, 22 are in quarantine at the Mangilao compound.

All the positive cases were initially identified in recent weeks at the Hagåtña Detention Facility, according to Maj. Antone Aguon, DOC spokesman.

“It’s like a never-ending battle trying to figure this out,” Aguon said. “We try to contain it and monitor it. But with our facilities, there is only so many places we can put people to separate them. It’s a challenge. Our facilities are overcrowded as it is, so it’s always a challenge trying to move inmates around. We also have to take into consideration that some are crime partners, and some have charges of a severe nature. The last thing we want is for somebody to escape.”

DOC plans to test more of its prison population for the virus on Friday.

“We’ve had a few that come in that are negative and then they end up being positive a couple days later. Then we do contact tracing and test the others where some are negative but then a few days later they develop symptoms, and they test positive,” he said. “We are not refusing anybody. We are accepting them if they are court committed or arrested so we end up having to deal with it.”

At least two DOC employees have recently tested positive, but Aguon said they contracted the virus while off duty.


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