By Jerick Sablan
Experts visited the island to assist the Superior Court of Guam in implementing a program to help keep criminals from coming back into the system.
The court was awarded a grant in 2015 to implement the Guam Adult Reentry Court from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance.
As part of the Judiciary’s grant award, technical assistance is provided by the National Reentry Resource Center. Representatives from the center were in Guam from March 28 to March 31 for a site visit.
The three experts visited local leaders as well as the Judiciary’s partners in the program.
Suzanne Brown-McBride, deputy director of the Justice Center: The Council of State Governments, said Guam has the right pieces to put a program together.
The service providers in Guam are doing the kinds of things an adult re-entry court will need to be successful, she said.
“They’re doing great things,” she said.
Presiding Judge Alberto Lamorena III, who will head the Adult Reentry Court and is the chairman of the Guam Adult Reentry Court Task Force, has said he often sees people come back to his courtroom. He’s said many of them feel like the judge is their dad, and coming back to the courtroom is like they failed him. Many of them admit that they have issues with addiction and leaving jail there may be no support for them to get better, Lamorena said.
Brown-McBride said tackling criminal thinking and helping change that will help keep people from re-entering the criminal system.
For example, housing can be provided for criminals, but if they still have a mindset of criminality they’re going to pay for rent by stealing or selling drugs.
The program will help ensure that all parties are being held accountable, she said.
She said Guam has some challenges like providing the services to help with mental health and drug abuse. She said more counselors are needed on island to address the needs. That could be addressed through recruitment or getting more people in programs from Guam to fill the gaps.
But for now the assessment tools being worked on will help put priority on those who really need services, she said.
The re-entry program will also help provide valuable data to help service providers and the court to see what are the programs people most need.
“It will stretch the resources farther,” she said.
She said during this visit to the island she’s seen that everyone is working together and collaborating to make sure the program will be a success.
“Everybody is eager to make these folks successful,” she said.
She said sometimes at other jurisdictions people have hesitance to work with prisoners, but Guam has been very open to helping them.
“I think collaboration matters here and it gives you a leg up from other places,” Brown-McBride said.
Lamorena said everybody has been positive about the program. The visit by the experts will help ensure that the program is successful, he said.
The planning stage should be completed by October and the court is expected to begin the program sometime by the end of the year, he said.
He said this will be one of the first midsize jurisdictions implementing this kind of program so he’s excited for it to become a model for the future.
The assessment tools they are working on will help figure out where each person in the program needs the most help and what services they need to be provided, Lamorena said.
Brown-McBride said Guam has a lot of experience already because it has made several therapeutic courts so the island isn’t starting from scratch.
Lamorena has been the lead in implementing many of the therapeutic courts on Guam and he notes that they have been successful.
Lamorena said ultimately they hope to modify criminals’ mindset so they don’t come back into the system.