State youth services chief quits
Sharon Agnew often faced criticism for the troubled Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility
Sharon Agnew, who headed the office charged with overseeing the troubled Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility, has resigned from the job.
Agnew's resignation as executive director of the state Office of Youth Services was effective Dec. 1, said Martha Torney, the office's acting executive director.
"Sharon chose not to continue," Torney said. She said she could not comment further.
The reasons for her resignation were unknown. Agnew has an unlisted telephone number and could not be reached for comment yesterday.
The state Department of Human Services, which oversees the Office of Youth Services, issued a statement confirming Agnew "voluntarily submitted her letter of resignation on Nov. 16."
As head of the Office of Youth Services, Agnew often was at the center of criticism regarding oversight and administration of the state's youth prison in Kailua.
In February, the state agreed to improve conditions at the facility in a deal with the U.S. Department of Justice that kept the prison from being placed under federal oversight. The Justice Department made 18 recommendations for improving the culture at the facility.
The agreement came six months after the Justice Department issued a report saying inadequate policies and procedures, staffing shortages and deficient training for guards had led to a "state of chaos" at the youth prison.
Conditions at the facility had been scrutinized since 2003, when the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii issued a report alleging that youths were held in overcrowded, punitive and unsafe conditions.
Gov. Linda Lingle immediately removed the top two administrators and subsequent investigations resulted in criminal convictions against a handful of guards.
The federal government conducted its own investigation, while the state Legislature also held hearings into conditions.
Agnew often found herself defending the policies and procedures at the facility, noting that progress had been made while working within a public employee union system that often made it difficult to enact sweeping reforms.
Lingle had echoed those sentiments while also noting that her administration had worked to develop community treatment programs for nonviolent offenders in an effort to reduce the youth prison population.
Agnew was named executive director in February 2003 after eight years as the Office of Youth Services' programs coordinator for Kauai County.
Torney, head of OYS' program development office, said she would remain as acting executive director until a replacement can be found. She said she has no plans to pursue a permanent appointment.