Tuesday, August 17, 1999

Prison blames
2 isle inmates
in riot, looting

Officials in Oklahoma also
say 20 to 25 Hawaii prisoners
broke into locked areas and
smashed windows and computers

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Two inmates from Hawaii are believed to be responsible for a fight Sunday night that led to a riot in a private Oklahoma prison where five guards were injured.

Duane Berg, spokesman for the Diamondback Correctional Facility, said an investigation continues today into the incident in which 20 to 25 inmates from Hawaii broke into locked storage areas, the education building, the commissary and a greenhouse.

More than 1,200 inmates, 375 of them from Hawaii, have been locked down in their cells since the incident in the medium security facility in Watonga, located northwest of Oklahoma City.

art Berg said 250 inmates from Hawaii, Indiana and Oklahoma were in two recreation yards at 6:30 p.m. Sunday when two inmates from Hawaii tried to climb a fence separating the yards.

When an officer tried to stop them, a fight broke out, and six or seven other inmates joined in, Berg said.

Eventually, 20 to 25 inmates, all from Hawaii, Berg said, began looting the prison.

The looters got baseball bats, rakes, hoes and shovels and broke out windows to get to other areas of the prison.

Computer equipment was damaged during the looting.

Five guards -- four men and a woman -- were treated for injuries and released, Berg said. All the guards had bruises around their heads, shoulders and necks, and one had a slight hand injury.

Five inmates were treated for minor ankle, arm and head injuries but have returned to work, Berg said.

The Diamondback facility is one of four prisons owned and operated by Corrections Corporation of America. The $39 million facility was opened last November and houses 375 inmates from Hawaii, 539 from Indiana and 211 from Oklahoma.

State Public Safety Director Ted Sakai said this is the second incident at Diamondback since Hawaii transferred all of its male inmates from Texas.

He didn't know whether Sunday's fight was related to one that occurred in June and involved nearly two dozen inmates from Hawaii and Indiana.

No criminal charges resulted from that melee. However, both administrative and criminal charges could result from the investigation into Sunday's incident.

Hawaii now has 84 women and 1,116 men in Oklahoma, Minnesota and Tennessee prisons to relieve the overcrowding in Hawaii's facilities. Housing the inmates on the mainland costs the state $20 million a year.

Gov. Ben Cayetano is contemplating building a new medium-security facility on the Big Island.

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