Senior staff at the Division of Corrections have confirmed that manpower shortages have affected prisoner transport routines, after a Supreme Court justice mentioned the issue during a hearing last month. The staff shortages underscore the need for additional posts to be created at the Police and in the Division of Corrections.

Supreme Court Justice Lourdes F. Materne had first brought the prisoner transport problems to public attention at a Violation of Probation hearing in criminal case number CR 18-035 on the 17th of July. In ad lib remarks during the hearing, the Associate Justice had suggested that when the Division of Corrections are low on manpower, the Supreme Court ‘sends’ them a Supreme Court Marshall to return the prisoners to jail after their legal hearings

In an interview with the Island Times, a senior staff member at the Division of Corrections first verified the standard procedure where lawyers call to make arrangements for meeting their clients and transporting them to the court for trials and hearings;  Then the Division of Corrections transports the prisoners to court in their own vehicle. The staff member described a situation where, after legal proceedings for the prisoners in question conclude, “either they call us to go pick them up, or the marshals drop them off.”

Asked directly about issues with prisoner transport routines and manpower levels, the senior staff member clearly confirmed that such manpower issues do exist, and that resources are being pooled to deal with it. “It is mostly like that… if we are short of manpower, we call for patrol assistants”. However, the staff member clarified that the Division of Corrections does not call the Supreme Court Marshals for prisoner transport assistance. Of their own initiative, “the marshals decide if they want to bring them: If they are free, they will bring the prisoners back. If they are not free, they call us and then we go and pick them up”.

Under the announcement number BPSS-2016-124R1, over 10 new positions at the Division of Corrections are being advertised by the Republic of Palau. The jobs, applications for which are being accepted on a continuous basis, have been advertised since October 2016.

The fact that prisoner transport routines have been affected by staff shortages highlights the need for additional manpower resources at the Division of Corrections. During the interview with the Island Times, the senior Division of Corrections staff member confirmed that more staff positions will help the Division provide a better service to the public. More staff will also mean, “more availability for transport”, the senior staff member explained. (Colin Cortbus)