I'll take Texas:

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Diana Cabbab of Hawaii gazes through the fence that surrounds part of the Crystal City, Texas, women’s prison.

Hawaii inmates say if they have to do time, they'd rather do it in the Lone Star State

By Gregg K. Kakesako

SPUR, Texas - Three days before New Year's Day 1996, 300 Hawaii inmates were abruptly uprooted from their cells in the middle of the night and flown more than 5,000 miles in an attempt to ease the overcrowded prison conditions in the islands.

They were the first of 600 Hawaii inmates who were shipped to three remote, barren Texas correctional facilities managed by the Bobby Ross Group. The second shipment of 300 occurred May 28 and included 64 women. All will remain there until at least 1999, at a $10 million cost to Hawaii taxpayers.

But even with those transfers, Hawaii's prison system is still busting at the seams. A total of 4,055 inmates are incarcerated in a system whose capacity, even with numerous modifications, is set at 2,912. All of Hawaii's eight correctional facilities are operating beyond their designed capacity.

The situation is close to the point it was in 1984, when the American Civil Liberties Union filed a class action suit charging that overcrowding at Oahu prisons created "a harmful and intolerable environment." That suit resulted in a consent decree a year later - and still in place - when the state agreed to capacity limits.

For many of the isle convicts, especially the women, it was a "form of cultural shock" to be torn from Hawaii and its unique protective ways for the first time in their lives.

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
Razor wire at Crystal City.

Although taken from loved ones, the upheaval has been positive for inmates, many of whom needed the separation, said Dickens County Correctional Center inmate Robert Kumukau, convicted of rape.

"They needed to get away. They needed to grow and they are finding that and they getting more mature."

Already, another $5 million has been set aside by Hawaii's Legislature to send another 300 inmates to Texas come July 1, the start of the new fiscal year, coming too late to head off possible legal action.

One Hawaii lawmaker said he may seek to move up the appropriation date with emergency legislation because of possible federal court action over the prison overcrowding crisis.

"I am seriously considering that," said House Public Safety/Military Affairs Chairman Nestor Garcia. "I don't see us building a prison in the next six months."

Garcia is concerned about the ACLU's threat to ask the federal court to review its supervision of the Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC), which has reached crisis proportion.

ACLU attorney Dan Foley said: "The conditions have deteriorated. The systems are essentially breaking down at OCCC - medical, food service, safety, security and environment."

Inmates are sleeping on the floor in OCCC, and in some cases, there are three to a cell, Foley maintains.

The correctional center in Kalihi now houses 1,159 convicts. Its operating bed capacity is 833.

State Public Safety Director Keith Kaneshiro, a former Honolulu prosecutor, said he may have no choice but to release inmates, unless he gets more money and a place to build a new state prison. He has proposed a 2,100-bed facility: 1,500 set aside for men, 500 for women.

Current debate for a site centers on the Big Island, after opposition arose over Gov. Ben Cayetano's suggestion to build it on state land in Leeward Oahu.

Now, 23 months since being exported to the Lone Star state, many of the Hawaii male inmates don't want to return.

That's especially true at Dickens County Correctional Center, despite its isolation 93 miles east of Lubbock in northern Texas.

Of the three Texas prisons housing Hawaii inmates, Dickens seems the success story. There, inmates virtually rebuilt a county jail from dust. Missing is the usual tension between guards and inmates, mainly due to the space the prisoners enjoy. The inmates there say they have "more space, more freedom and more respect from the guards."

Not only have they won the admiration of Warden Marshall Hudgins and many of his 80 correctional officers - but also of Judge Woodie McArthur, chairman of the five-member Commissioners Court that governs Dickens County and many of its 2,600 residents.

In fact, Texas and Hawaii prison officials acknowledge, the one major incident at Dickens prison flared when Montana inmates believed Hawaii prisoners were getting preferential treatment for work done in the prison and the community.

Five Hawaii inmates were transferred across the state to Newton County Correctional Center, near Louisiana, after a fight ensued and a Montana inmate was killed.

One Hawaii inmate involved in the fight told the Star-Bulletin that Hawaii inmates were outnumbered and did not start the ruckus. A Texas grand jury met in July to determine the involvement of five Hawaii inmates in the May 9 incident. As yet, no indictments have been handed down.

However, the story is not the same for the 62 female inmates at Crystal City Correctional Center in northern Texas, about 40 miles from the Mexican border.

The women inmates - 95 percent of them mothers - cite the hardship of being separated from their children and the high cost of trying to sustain relationships with long-distance phone calls at $15 for 20 minutes.

"I miss my family," said Lori Newell, 36. "I miss my children . . . and I am supposed to be a grandmother any day and I haven't heard from my son."

But Newell, who was convicted of forgery and burglary, said she doesn't miss the crowded conditions at the Women's Community Correctional Center in Kailua, where there were more than 50 women in a dorm. And then there was the isolation of the Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo.

"What I don't miss is Hilo," Newell said. "I was locked up for 23 hours a day with only one hour off for recreation."

Even with 64 new beds, the women's prison is again over its 174-inmate capacity by 21.

Janice Cockett, who was sentenced to life for the 1986 murder of her husband, Habilitat executive Frank Cockett, said Hawaii's Public Safety Department broke its own rules by sending female inmates who had less than a year left in their sentence.

But after checking into such complaints, department spokesman Ted Sakai said the female inmates who had parole dates within a year also had other negating conditions, such as escaping from community work programs.

At the larger Newton Fillyaw Community Correctional Center in north eastern Texas, the mood is more subdued. With 435 Hawaii male inmates, Newton could be considered the islands' third-largest prison.

Although many there want to remain, citing "more freedom" to move about and "less hassle" from the prison guards than at Oahu's Halawa Correctional Facility, their biggest concern is parole considerations.

Some complain that none of the 536 male inmates shipped to Texas lockups have ever been considered for parole. Others say they can't be sent to work furlough programs outside the prison, which would make it easier to get paroled, and that there are no provisions for sentence reductions for good behavior.

Al Beaver, acting chairman of the Hawaii Paroling Authority, said a recent visit to Texas by the three-member panel was to alleviate such fears.

Last month, the panel interviewed 18 female inmates at Crystal City - and paroled 12. Two others also were released on parole several months earlier, and the cases of all inmates are reviewed and actions taken when needed, according to a parole board spokesman.

"Our plan was to treat them just like they were in Hawaii," said Beaver, who has applied to stay on for another four years.

Beaver said "the work furlough program is not for everybody" and inmates still could be paroled without it. He also noted that inmates were initially chosen because they had terms longer than the contract with the county prisons, which expires in 1999.

Newton inmates also believe they lost some freedom after Hawaii prisoner Larry Pagan - who was serving a 15-year sentence for assault, kidnapping and escape - kidnapped 50-year-old Wilma Parnell on Feb. 14, 1996.

Pagan, after four days of freedom in Mexico, was recaptured and later sentenced to life in a tougher, federal prison. His escape also moved Texas lawmakers to place greater restrictions on the type of out-of-state inmates allowed into their facilities.

The state of Hawaii is now paying the Bobby Ross Group, headquartered in Austin, about $16,000 per inmate per year to house its inmates in the Lone Star state for three years.

In Hawaii, it costs about $28,000 a year to lock up an inmate.

The state says it also hopes to save about $500,000 a year with lower food, medical, clothing and other costs.

For Dickens prisoners Patrick Ako and Steve "Stretch" Simpson, the payoff also can be measured in improved quality.

"Time now flies," said Ako, of Konawaena. "At Halawa, it just dragged."

Said Simpson: "For doing time when you have to do time, you can't beat this."

By Dennis Oda, Star-Bulletin
James Reinhardt, John Carter, Wendell Johnson and Eryck Bautista trudge through mud in slippers on the way back to Newton after work.

Daily life more bearable at Newton

But being far from family and friends is tough, some of Hawaii's more notorious inmates say

By Gregg K. Kakesako

NEWTON, Texas - Former Gray Line Hawaii executive Robert Moore has positioned a photograph of his daughter and son in his Texas prison cell so it is the first thing he sees each morning - "a permanent ache" he carries with him each day.

Orlando Ganal is back again in the laundry room.

This time, however, his uniform is the orange garb of the Newton County Correctional Center, where Ganal is serving part of his life sentence for committing the state's worst multiple-slaying six years ago.

This will be the fourth Christmas behind bars for Raita Fukusaku, the first Japanese citizen to be extradited to stand trial for murder in the United States, while he waits for the outcome of another appeal of his murder conviction.

Fukusaku was convicted in February 1994 for the murders of prominent Japanese fortune teller Toako Kototome Fujita and her son, Goro.

The three are among 435 Hawaii inmates now housed at Newton County Correctional Center, located 96 miles northeast of Beaumont, Texas, near the Louisiana border, until 1999. They were sent to this logging and paper mill community 23 months ago to relieve some of the pressure from Hawaii's bulging prisons.

Their numbers make the 6-year-old Newton facility the third-largest prison housing Hawaii convicts, ranking behind Halawa Correctional Facility's 1,453 inmates and Oahu Community Correctional Center's 1,159.

Here, Hawaii inmates say they are better treated by the guards and there is less tension because of the less-crowded living conditions.

"I came to jail when I was 28," said Fukusaku during a recent interview, "now I am 32. Since then people have got married. People have gotten kids.

"I lost a lot of friends. I lost my job. I lost a lot of things. . . . Sometimes I feel like I want to give up, but I can't give up. I remember. I have a good family. . . . I still have other good friends.

"One thing I learned coming to prison. Time is important and I can't waste any of it. Even though I may have more privileges here, I still don't have my freedom."

He is bothered by the food.

"It is worse than in Hawaii."

He says he spends most of his time "working on his case" and reading the books he orders from Japan. Over the last nine months, Fukusaku said, his phone bills to Japan have totaled $30,000, as he tries to keep in touch with his family and his lawyers. He says he also has lawyers working for him in Hawaii, Houston, Austin and California.

Ganal, 43, was a Waipahu laundry delivery truck driver in April 1991 when, in a jealous rage, he committed one of the worst multiple murders in the state's history.

Upset that his estranged wife, Mabel, was having an affair with David Touchette, Ganal shot and wounded her and their son, Orlando Jr., and also shot to death Mabel Ganal's parents, Santiago and Aradina Dela Cruz. He then drove to the Kailua home of Touchette's brother and set it on fire with everyone sleeping inside, killing Michael Touchette, his baby son and daughter, Joshua and Kalah, and severely burning their mother, Wendy Touchette.

Ganal works in Newton's laundry room earning $25 a month, which he spends on cigarettes and canned foods such as mackerel, smoked oysters and corn beef - and saimin, which he purchases from the prison's commissary.

At Hawaii's Halawa Correctional Facility, he was held in close custody, where his movements were restricted.

At Newton, Ganal said he is freer to move about the five-acre prison complex.

"There is no lockdown," said Ganal, who has grown his hair to his shoulders. "The only time they lock the cells is when you go to sleep. They don't strip-search you when go into the recreation yard, just a pat search."

Ganal said he would prefer to serve his life term without parole in Newton.

"I have had no problem since arriving here," he said. "The people are all right.

"They are friendly. No matter where you go, it all depends how you act."

Cedric Ah Sing, one of five inmates transferred to Newton from Dickens County Correctional Center after a May 9 brawl that ended with the death of a Montana convict, wants to return to Dickens.

"For me there were more educational, vocational and better medical treatment there at Dickens," said Ah Sing, who was convicted of armed robbery.

He admits hitting Montana convict Neal Hage, who later died of head injuries.

"I punched this guy one time, that's all," said Ah Sing, 38, of the brawl. "But I was not the cause of the fight."

Moore, 45, was originally transported to the Dickens center in northwest Texas in December 1995, but was able to win a transfer two months later to Newton. He said he sought the change because his parents, three brothers and a sister live in northeastern Mississippi.

But he wants to complete his sentence in Hawaii to be near his two children.

Moore was convicted of shooting his wife, Lani, five times on Jan. 7, 1992, and sentenced to life with the possibility of parole, with orders to serve at least six years.

His wife refused to testify at his attempted murder trial. The couple have since divorced.

"A person can live with the lack of privacy," Moore said, "or the lack of privileges. Those are the things you can endure.

"It's not being able to attend your daughter's ballet recital or not being there when your parents are ill or die. That's what makes it so unbearable."

Moore now edits Newton prison's monthly eight-page inmate newsletter - "The Twilight Zone" - and helps tutor inmates trying to earn their GED (General Education Development) certificate. Over the last 28 months, 235 Newton inmates, including 16 from Hawaii, have earned their GEDs.

Newton Warden Charles Hardy said the two basic complaints of the inmates from Hawaii have been food and "being so far away from home" - complaints identical to those raised at the two other Texas facilities.

"More beef and chicken have been added to the menu," he said.

And in September, the inmates held a luau with rocks and banana leaves imported from the islands.

"They washed school buses to earn money to buy the pig and even dug an imu (pit oven) on the grounds here," said Hardy.

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