On April 10, 1998, the United States notified Governor Pedro P. Tenorio of its intention to investigate conditions at the corrections and detention institutions of the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands ("CNMI") pursuant to the Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons Act ("CRIPA"), 42 U.S.C. § 1997 et seq. The United States investigated conditions at six facilities: the Saipan Prison Complex, the Saipan Detention Facility ("SDF"), the Kagman Youth Facility on Saipan, the Saipan Immigration Detention Facility, the Tinian Detention Facility, and the Rota Detention Facility. On August 5, 1998, the United States sent a Findings Letter to Governor Tenorio stating that conditions at these six facilities violated the constitutional rights of inmates confined there.
The investigation was initiated after the Justice Department received reports that the prisons and jails had severe safety, health, sanitation, fire-safety and security deficiencies. Cells were locked with padlocks, fire alarms were non-functioning, showers were caked with mold, buildings lacked artificial lighting, the facilities lacked any medical personnel or any health screenings, resulting in a tuberculosis epidemic, and buildings lacked ventilation and adequate staffing.
After notifying the Commonwealth of its findings, the United States filed a lawsuit on February 23, 1999, in the United States District Court for the Northern Mariana Islands against the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands pursuant to CRIPA and the Police Pattern and Practice of Misconduct Statute, 42 U.S.C. §14141. The complaint alleged failure to provide adequate supervision, security, and medical and mental healthcare for both pre-trial detainees and post-convicted prisoners. The United States also alleged that the Commonwealth failed to ensure adequate environmental health, sanitation, and fire safety for the pre-trial detainees and post-convicted prisoners.
Concurrent with the complaint, the parties filed a consent decree that provided for such things as facility population projections, space requirements, programming and services including medical care, mental health care, food service, and protection from harm, staffing and staff training, security and emergency planning, funding, fire safety measures, food sanitation provisions, hygiene and sanitation provisions, health screenings, and increased security. The District Court (Judge Alex R. Monson) approved the consent decree on February 25, 1999.
On June 4, 2009, Judge Monson held that after a "rocky" start, the Commonwealth, in 2003, started submitting quarterly reports outlining the status of operations at the Adult Correctional Facility, Immigration Detention, Juvenile Detention Unit, Rota Detention, and Tinian Detention. Coordination had been ongoing between the Commonwealth and the US Department of Justice in the form of formal reports as well as frequent, informal exchanges of information between the parties. Substantial progress had been made by the Commonwealth that has included a collaborative, constructive relationship with the US Department of Justice. Following the on-site visit to all of the governed facilities by counsel and retained experts on behalf of the US Department of Justice, progress had continued on issues identified by the parties. Judge Monson ordered the Commonwealth to provide information regarding the medical system to the U.S. Department of Justice for review to access substantial compliance and the long-term sustainability of the medical system.
On January 30, 2014, Chief Judge Ramona V. Manglona deferred ruling on the joint motion to terminate the consent decree pending the parties' submission of a final report, which is to be filed no later than April 30, 2014. A final hearing on the joint motion is set for May 15, 2014. If the parties complete the final report sooner than April 30, 2014, the final hearing may be moved to an earlier date. Rebekah Henn Sullivan - 07/26/2005
Jessica Kincaid - 03/09/2014