Texas prison imposes lockdown

Hawaii inmates take part
in a fight and say they hear
blood will be shed

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A lockdown has been imposed at a Texas prison housing 435 inmates from Hawaii following two disturbances this weekend.

Last night about 300 inmates at the Newton County Correctional Center in northeast Texas were involved in an incident in the prison yard that resulted in a fire damaging one of the buildings in the compound. Saturday night, Hawaii inmates were involved in a fight at the prison chapel.

Around 9 p.m. yesterday (Newton time), inmates broke out of several annexes and refused to return, milling around in one of the prison's recreation yards. It took Newton guards two hours to get the inmates back into their cells, said Newton Warden Charles Hardy. There were no injuries.

Prison officials did not have an exact count on the number of Hawaii inmates involved.

Hardy today said the incident apparently began over inmate complaints that their dormitory was too warm and escalated as more inmates joined the disruption. "There is always the potential for tension in any prison facility and we simply experienced a temporary frenzy as emotions boiled over yesterday evening," Hardy said.

With 435 Hawaii inmates, the six-year-old Texas facility is the third largest prison housing island convicts, behind Halawa Correctional Facility with 1,453 inmates and Oahu Community Correctional Center with 1,159.

Hawaii inmates say tensions are high, with the possibility of other outbreaks. Lockdown means the inmates are confined to their cells, and no activities are allowed.

Ted Sakai, spokesman for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, said 13 inmates, including four from Hawaii, were involved in a fight in the prison chapel at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.

Sakai said that no injuries were reported in the Saturday night incident. Sakai said that after the fight was subdued by Newton correctional officers, a Hawaii inmate ran back to his cellblock and refused to come out.

"The other inmates in the cellblock decided to back him up," Sakai said. "All of the light bulbs were broken out."

Sakai said a glass window that prison officials use to monitor cellblock activity was covered with soap, preventing correctional officers from seeing what the inmates were up to.

Sakai said Newton correctional officers then used pepper spray to subdue those in the cellblock, which holds 21 inmates.

"The warden said they were being defiant," Sakai said.

Sakai said an investigation is currently being undertaken to find out the cause of the fight.

Hawaii inmate Monte Boyd, 36, who talked to the Star-Bulletin yesterday after phone privileges were restored, said bad blood has existed for a while, and that the staff of the prison will try to play the fight down.

"This is not the bed of roses they claim it is here," Boyd said.

Other Hawaii inmates who talked to the Star-Bulletin said shots were fired from one of the guard towers.

However, Sakai said he could not confirm those reports.

"There's a lot of hot blood between the Hawaii inmates and the Missouri inmates," Boyd said.

"I was in the chapel at the time it started. I was sitting up front where the podium is. Half the chapel started throwing blows. Chairs started flying."

Another Hawaii inmate, Luiva "Tui" Fualaau, said: "We're not scared, but the way things run, it's bad. We have rumors going on that somebody is going to shed some blood."

The Texas county correctional facility, located near the Louisiana border, is operated by the Bobby Ross Group. It houses 435 inmates from Hawaii, 211 from Missouri, 134 from Oklahoma, five from Newton County and one from Montana.

This is the third incident at Newton involving inmates from Hawaii -- the others were escape attempts.

Other fights between Hawaii and mainland inmates occurred at Dickens County Correctional Center -- another Bobby Ross Group Texas jail housing Hawaii inmates.

On Aug. 26, about 30 Hawaii and Montana inmates were involved in a fight over prison conditions. The warden then ordered guards to fire live rounds and rubber bullets to stop the fight. He was later dismissed from his job.

On May 9, a fight between Hawaii and Montana inmates resulted in the death of Montana inmate Neal Hagen. Five Hawaii inmates were transferred to Newton and are awaiting charges. It is not known if any were involved in Saturday's fight.

Hawaii began sending inmates to Texas in December 1995 because island correctional facilities were overcrowded. The first batch of 300 inmates were sent to Newton and Dickens County Correctional Center.

Star-Bulletin writer Gordon Pang
contributed to this report.

Suicide try in Texas jail
worries isle man’s family

By Gregg K. Kakesako

A Waianae inmate who tried to escape from a Texas prison in August attempted to kill himself in his cellblock a few days later, and his family is worried that he is not receiving proper treatment for his mental condition.

Matthew David Treu was found by Newton County Corrections Center officers Sept. 3 hanging from the vent in his cell with a bedsheet wrapped around his neck. Treu had pleaded no contest last year to five felony charges in connection with a crime spree on the Big Island, including burning a home after a burglary.

His family found out about the suicide attempt three weeks later, when Treu wrote complaining about the conditions at Newton, says his sister, Phyllis Galeng.

Galeng said state Department of Public Safety officials have told her that they didn't know that her brother tried to commit suicide until she contacted them Nov. 24.

Ted Sakai, Department of Public Safety spokesman, said state prison health officials have checked into Treu's condition and "at this point there is no recommendation that he be sent back."

Hawaii prison officials will continue to monitor the situation, Sakai said.

Treu, 36, and an inmate from Oklahoma stole a pickup truck belonging to a corrections officer at Newton County Correctional Center in Beaumont, Texas, near the Louisiana border, but the two were recaptured a few hours later.

Treu was the second inmate from Hawaii who tried to escape from Newton. On Feb. 4, 1996, Larry Pagan kidnapped a woman after his escape and took her at knifepoint to the Mexican border. He was recaptured and has been sentenced to a life term in a federal prison.

Treu has yet to be charged for the Aug. 30 escape attempt.

Since then, Treu has been in protective custody in a 6-by-8 lockdown cell 24 hours a day. The Oklahoma inmate, according to Galeng, has been returned to his home state.

Galeng acknowledges that her brother is "a convicted felon and should be punished for attempting to escape from Newton," but she is worried about his mental state based upon several letters received since he was placed in lockdown.

"The actions taken against him and his treatment go far beyond humane," Galeng said.

Galeng said that her brother had earned trustee status -- a postion of responsibility during his imprisonment at Newton -- when he tried to escape in August. She said that it was combination of several personal problems that may have triggered the breakout attempt.

In a letter sent to the Hawaii Paroling Authority Nov. 24, Galeng said it has become "a matter of life and death."

Galeng said no one has ever informed Treu's family of his attempt at suicide.

"There is a great anguish tearing him up mentally that no person no matter what wrong he has done should have to go through."

In a letter Treu wrote to his sister on Nov. 1, he said: "It's about 10:30, 11OO o'clock night time.

"I'm triping. Have you ever cried so much that bubbles comes out of your nose."

In another letter on Nov. 8, Treu said that after being locked down "in my tomb for 75 days" the staff took him to the gym.

"So I was in their. The size of the gym is a little bigger than Waianae gym around 60x80 feet. The walls are around 75 feet high with window along the top. So I was in their walking around, I looked up had a basket ball rim. I was all by myself, pretty lonely. No one to talk to, plus there wasn't no basket ball to play with.

"On one of the walls on the gym theirs a big window and a door. I walked up to it, the staff was inside they can't hear me talking. I had to make all kinds of hand motions like some mute.

"I need a ball, which the staff understood . . . Well here comes the ball rolling to me. It's a ball, but it wasn't no basket ball. It was a soccer ball. It looked pretty hard too as it was rolling towards me.

"I got my hands on the ball. Alright, the stupid ball was flat. So what's up with dat."

"So I walked around with the gym with that flat ball on my head (and) felt pretty stupid inside their with that flat ball . . . I don't know what's happening already."

"I swear they should just put me to sleep! I sorry for everything. Every letter I sended, it's all depression . . . I need HELP! Please!"

Read the recent Star-Bulletin series on
Hawaii inmates in Texas:
"I'll take Texas"

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