Allow Guam inmates at Saipan prison; wait for Feds to come to us

By Mabel Doge Luhan

Oh, it’s almost Christmas again! Indeed, the Feast of Saint Lucia is usually when my grandchildren stop asking me for unrealistic Christmas gifts, and tone their expectations back to the realistic ones — because they know that otherwise, they won’t get anything!

Orville, for example, has been dropping me rather unsubtle hints by leaving brochures and build sheets for the G650 Extended Range at my bedside. Who ever heard of a whippersnapper not even in his seventh decade riding around in a G650, Extended Range no less?! I had a little heart-to-heart with him and explained that with all the banking secrecy laws, a G280 (NOT EXTENDED RANGE) is all I can afford, and he seems to be perfectly happy with that alternative! What a clever darling! Had he persisted with the exorbitant ask, he would’ve wound up with nothing — maybe I would’ve bought him a Cirrus just out of spite!

Oh, it reminds me of when Orville was young, and I implored upon him to choose a career. He had the usual childhood fantasies of being a lion tamer, an astronaut, or a Micronesian autocrat. But sure enough, as soon as he graduated from dame school, he set upon a lucrative career as a powder monkey!

Well, we all need to be realistic, don’t we? Because if we turn down what’s actually available, because of our fixation on a non-option, we may end up with nothing!

Recently, the CNMI was offered the chance to house other jurisdictions’ prisoners: we already do this temporarily for the Feds, and now Guam is seeking an arrangement! In fact, this is exactly the kind of economic development we can use. It makes use of some of the few resources we can offer Guam: land and wages much cheaper than Guam’s, a location less than an hour away, and the US flag flying overhead. It doesn’t require anything we don’t have, such as a highly educated workforce, cheap electricity, or a competent newspaper.

But the voices against the proposal are loud and clear. Of course we don’t want to be a dumping ground for prisoners! We’re better than that!

What proposals are the ones that have been greatly welcomed?

The “captive insurance” idea, of course. Where we all get rich from companies legally headquartered in the CNMI that literally do nothing, but somehow are going to hire lots of people to do nothing in lots of air-conditioned offices, and also pay the local government to do more of the same. That’s pretty much the same as when Orville wanted to grow up to be a patent troll.

The “Bitcoin hub” idea. Where we somehow get rich just like people who got in early on Bitcoin, except by getting in at the peak of Bitcoin, without risking any of our own money of course, and in spite of our absolute lack of technological expertise, cheap electricity, cold weather, or financial infrastructure. It’s the equivalent of a kid wanting to grow up to be the owner of an amusement park — on the Moon.

Then there was the movie industry. We spent a million dollars of public money on that one. Not too long ago. We were all going to become rich movie stars, right? Orville stopped believing this stuff even before he stopped listening to Menudo, but well, it seems an awful lot of us believed in this movie industry idea, or at least pretended to.

And anything involving “investors” — who are generally understood to be outsiders who come here to give us bales of money and ice, goodies that don’t require any work or risk on our part, and we all get rich. A cargo cult mentality, basically. 

Remember that proposal to use the CNMI to build a perpetual motion machine, and sell power throughout Micronesia? Some scammer got pretty far in discussions with the CNMI government, and he certainly knew what buttons to push in his pitch: it was supposed to give us billions of dollars of free money, and we wouldn’t have to do anything but collect those checks.

Those proposals didn’t fail because our government was incompetent. The most competent local government in the world could not have made the CNMI get rich from any of those ideas. The only difference is that a competent government would not have pursued these ridiculous ideas — whether out of a sincere belief that they’re good ideas, as in Celina Babauta’s case with the captive insurance plan, or out of cynical skill at weaving fairy tales that play well in the villages, in the case of a lot of other CNMI politicians I’ll refrain from naming. I will remember to send them and their enablers lumps of coal this holiday season however!

And here we are, presented with the inmate transfer proposal: something we can actually do. Something that can actually bring us government revenue, and provide some real, actual jobs. It’s not going to be the billions in government revenue and thousands of high-paying, do-nothing jobs every “investor” promises — but you can’t compare a real proposal to something that doesn’t exist. The Guam inmate proposal is real. It can happen. Unlike all those golden monorails we’ve so eagerly chased in the past.

The unfortunate reality is too long, we’ve been living consequence-free. Thanks to massive federal subsidies, we’ve come to believe that do-nothing $80K/year jobs is just how the world works, and that “investors” somehow just show up and shower cash on us with nothing required in return. 

That’s a great gig if you, or we, can get it. But it doesn’t come along too often. We can’t hold out for that kind of gig when there are real bills to be paid, and real opportunities we can realistically pursue.

In fact, incarceration is the one industry that could realistically save the CNMI economy. Every economically down-on-its-luck small town in the mainland US begs to have a prison built there. Federal prisons are tremendous economic drivers, and have rescued not just towns but entire counties and even large portions of states from economic ruin.

No, it’s not glamorous. We won’t all get fancy titles and do-nothing jobs as we did back in the garment days, when every garment factory was legally required to hire some do-nothing “managers,” or as every pie-in-the-sky economic solution since then has promised. But what we would get from a federal prison is a lot of jobs at around $30 an hour, plus a tremendous source of business for all kinds of vendors — from catering to laundry to janitorial services to construction — and with preference for US-owned small businesses. 

For now, we can start with the Guam proposal. Show the world that there is something the CNMI government can actually do competently, other than wasting federal money. Have the feds coming to us because they need us, not because we need them.

The CNMI being an incarceration provider isn’t a fantasy economy. But it’s a lot better than nothing. 


Mabel Doge Luhan is a woman of loose morals. She resides in Kagman V, where she pursues her passions of crocheting, beatboxing, and falconry.


  • Notoriousnic

      12/14/2023 at 6:13 PM

    They gonna take em for free? Or are we gonna have to pay double?Maybe they should allow Chamoros from Guam to do business over there. But your idk a genius poet right ? What makes u think they would do better than us? Kandit needs to put u in opinion section because your rhetoric has that “independence now ” feel to it. Pretty sure joeten likes ur idea.

    • You should’ve read the article before you criticize our Mabel. If you know any better, you’ll agree with Mabel that this is something that we can harvest right away rather than trying to plant or wait for some kind of crazy investors that only harms us at the end. Wake up buddy.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *