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Last updateWed, 17 Jul 2019 12am







    Tuesday, July 16, 2019-2:20:42P.M.






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Inmates, Corrections settle lawsuit

THE Department of Corrections will develop and implement a plan to eliminate the substantial harm that prisoners suffer due to inadequate medical care, mental healthcare, dental care, and eye care, according to a settlement agreement between the department and the 14 inmates who sued it.

Jeanne Rayphand, attorney for the inmates, disclosed on Thursday that they and Corrections had reached a settlement agreement.  She also filed a voluntary dismissal of the case in the District Court for the NMI.

There were initially 15 prisoners who sued Corrections, but one of them, Ji-jing Borja, told the court he no longer wanted to pursue litigation.

The  remaining plaintiffs are Steven Aguon, Ray Anthony Babauta, Joseph Barto, George Cruz, Donald Hocog, Nena Langu, Wei Lin, Joaquin Lizama, William Mathewson, Daniel Mauricio, Carlos Ramangmau, Alfredo Reyes, Price Shoiter, and Xinqiang (Sean) Zheng.

 Their lawsuit alleged that Corrections failed to provide constitutionally adequate medical care, mental healthcare, dental care, and eye care to persons in the custody of the department.

The inmates also claimed that Corrections officials subjected them to excessive solitary confinement.

 The settlement agreement signed by the 14 inmates and the department states that Corrections “shall make all reasonable attempts to schedule an appointment for each of the plaintiffs to be examined and treated by a medical doctor on or before Sept. 15, 2018.”

 It also states that Corrections is in the process of employing a medical doctor to provide on-site medical care beginning on or about Sept. 1, 2018, and that in the event that the employment of the medical doctor is delayed, Corrections “shall schedule an appointment for each of the plaintiffs to be examined and treated by an alternative medical doctor on or before Oct. 1.”

Corrections will also schedule an appointment for two inmates for a mental-health evaluation, treatment, care, and counseling with a psychiatrist on a regular basis and on an as-needed or emergency basis.

The Commonwealth Healthcare Corporation has recently hired a psychiatrist, the agreement stated.

 “Defendants shall follow a psychiatrist’s prescription regarding the inmates’ treatment and  care and shall not impose on inmates any form of solitary confinement, isolation, or administrative segregation in contravention of the prescription from the psychiatrist or mental-health professional,” the agreement added.

Moreover,  Corrections “shall provide dental examinations for inmates at least once a year.”

Within 60 days of the effective date of the agreement, the department “shall schedule an appointment with an ophthalmologist to examine and treat the inmates.”

In addition, Corrections “shall provide them with constitutionally required eye care and treatment, including glasses, prescribed by an ophthalmologist in a timely manner and without delay.”

Regarding medications, Corrections “shall make available and dispense prescribed medications to the inmates on a timely and regular basis consistent with constitutional requirements and as prescribed, and shall further insure that prescription medications are renewed in a timely manner to insure that adequate medication is available at all times.”

The settlement agreement  provides that “no sanctions shall be imposed on the inmates resulting in more than 15 consecutive days of administrative segregation without concurrence from an inmate’s psychiatrist, medical doctor, or mental-health provider.”

Short-term administrative segregation of less than 48 hours “shall be permissible if required for inmate safety.”

Likewise, Corrections “shall provide the Northern Marianas Protection and Advocacy Systems Inc. with…medical and inmate files held by Corrections, for inspection within 24 hours of a request from NMPASI, and said records shall be provided upon request for a period of one year from the effective date of the agreement.”

 The settlement agreement, which became effective on Aug. 16, 2018, was signed by Vince Attao, in his official capacity as commissioner of Corrections, and Assistant Attorney General Hessel E. Yntema, who represented the department in the lawsuit.

The District Court for the NMI retained jurisdiction for the purpose of enforcing the terms.