Parole office halts public surveillance
I was using a pay phone in the old Army and Air Force Exchange Service building at 919 Ala Moana Blvd. in June when I heard some young men in the hallway talking about the camera recording my conversation. I asked what they were talking about and they took me into the parole office, where they were visiting. I could see a TV screen with the pay phone in the hallway being shown. The two men pointed out a camera positioned in the parole office and also a voice recording device on the wall. I asked a woman in the office if everything the men had told me was true and she said that it was, that everyone is being watched and recorded, both pictures and sounds. Nowhere was there any signs posted that this area is being watched and everything recorded, even in the public hallway. I resent this intrusion on my personal business. I was in the hallway, not in the parole office. Why should I be watched? I am not on parole. I think this should be stopped.
Answer: "Inadvertent" surveillance in the public hallway has stopped.
The building houses a satellite office for the Hawaii Paroling Authority, as well as offices of the state departments of Health and Public Safety.
The surveillance system has been adjusted so that the camera only videotapes parolees in the waiting room of the paroling office and "only picks up conversations in the waiting room area," said Hawaii Paroling Authority administrator Tommy Johnson.
The cameras were installed in both the Ala Moana office and the paroling authority's main office on Alakea Street for security reasons, he said, noting that "all our clients are convicted felons who have spent some time in prison."
Johnson said the authority also had received various complaints from other tenants regarding parolees "maybe wandering around the building."
Officials want to make sure the parolees "maintain acceptable levels of behavior," not just in the building, "but in out waiting area, because we also drug-test them. So the cameras can pick up if a parolee tries to hide something or dump something," he said.
There are signs warning of the surveillance posted on the door to Room 100, the paroling office, and inside, "letting people know that the area is under video surveillance," he said. Similar signs and surveillance are installed at the main office.
The cameras became operational in late May or early June, although they were installed a couple of weeks earlier, Johnson said.
When the cameras were first installed, he acknowledged that one was trained on the door to Room 100 and did "inadvertently" show the bottom of the pay telephone.
"Once we realized that was a problem," the camera was swung to the left "so that it only picked up the waiting room area." It will not pick up people just walking by, he said.
The audio also "has been adjusted down so it's only picking up conversations in the waiting area," he said. It is not sensitive enough to pick up conversations in the public hallway or in any employee work area, he said.
It turns out that concern about the surveillance system already had been expressed by some employees, although Johnson said no complaints have been received from members of the public
Some employees feel "that we would be recording their comings and goings, but we're not, because the camera has been moved to record the waiting room area for the parole population only," he said.
But because of those concerns, "We did request to consult with HGEA (the employees' labor union) on the camera issue and are waiting for them to get back to us to schedule a meeting."
To Honolulu police officer Boyce Sugai, who helped me get safely to the shoulder lane after having a flat tire in the HOV lane on the H-1, townbound near the airport, about 6:30 a.m. last Thursday. Officer Sugai not only helped me get to safety, but helped change my tire. Many thanks also to the very brave lady who literally risked her life to stop on the freeway to offer me the use of her cell phone to call 911 and my workplace. Lucky I live Hawaii! -- Sandra Hayashida
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