Guam Plans Transfer of Foreign Inmates

Last year, Guam joined the “International Prisoner Transfer Program”, a program that permits the relocation of prisoners to their countries of citizenship to carry out their prison terms; a process commonly referred to as deportation. Guam's prison facilities have reported overcrowding and high costs, with most of their foreign prisoners from the F.S.M. Although deportation will be beneficial to Guam, it may be a detriment to the F.S.M. where accounts of criminal activities from deportees have grown.

Guam's agreement to join the program came after assessments were made on the condition of Guam’s prison facilities. The assessment showed that it costs $118 daily to care for each inmate. Prison facilities in Guam also reported overcrowding. Reports also showed that 1 out of 5 inmates are of foreign origin. The foreign inmates consist primarily of F.S.M. citizens, but the facility also holds prisoners from Palau, Peru, and the Philippines.

Last year Vice Speaker Benjamin Cruz said, “ A full 1/3 of our prison population, is from the F.A.S. (Freely Associated States)…” This year's current statistics report that 20 percent of inmates are non-U.S. citizens. It would seem that there was a huge reduction of foreign prisoners in the past year, since it was reported a year ago that FAS citizens alone made up about 30 percent of Guam’s prisoner population. Now the overall population of non-U.S. prisoners (including FAS citizens) is at 20 percent.

Although the transfer of prisoners is now law, it has yet to be implemented due to a lack of proper “framework” or procedure. Policymakers are certain that the deportation of foreign prisoners will be beneficial to taxpayers.

Currently, the F.S.M. participates in this transfer. But, as we’ve reported a year ago, the transferring of inmates has not been very beneficial there. FSM Supreme Court Associate Justice, Dennis Yamase stated, “I can’t confirm this, but I think several people who were deported (back to FSM) have subsequently gotten into trouble with the law.” He also added that, “there’s no formal system of telling us… we don’t know anything about [our] deportees.”

In the case of Chuuk State, governor Johnson Elimo said, “Chuuk [does not have] a prison.” Talks with F.S.M. citizens (who wish to remain anonymous) have revealed that known convicts who were deported back to Chuuk have been seen roaming the islands freely. “Deportation is a free ticket back home”. 

The International Prisoner Transfer Program requires the consent and approval of the inmate to be transferred. The transfer must also be approved by the inmates’ home country. This means that three parties must agree for the transfer of an inmate: the inmate, the state/country that the inmate committed the crime, and the inmate’s country of origin.

It has been explained why countries want to deport their foreign criminals. In the case of Guam, foreign criminals are overcrowding prison facilities and costing taxpayers. But one unanswered question still looms: why do countries such as the F.S.M. participate in this Prisoner Transfer Program when their own systems and facilities are inadequate?

1. Pacific Daily News. Framework Needed to Transfer Foreign Inmates.
2. The Fourth Branch. Guam Signs International Prisoner Transfer Bill Into Law.