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Female inmates to return to isles


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POSTED: Wednesday, August 19, 2009

The majority of 128 female inmates from Hawaii housed at a private Kentucky correctional facility will return to the islands within a month, Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said yesterday.

Forty Hawaii inmates returned Monday from Otter Creek Correctional Facility, where guards were accused of sexually assaulting 23 women, including seven from Hawaii.

A task force visited Otter Creek on July 5 and found that a 2007 sexual assault case was substantiated, with the guard being terminated and convicted. One case was dismissed, two female inmates denied assault allegations, and three cases are being investigated by Kentucky police, Public Safety Deputy Director Tommy Johnson said.

The Senate Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs, headed by Sen. Will Espero, interviewed Frank and Johnson at the state Capitol yesterday for an update on the allegations and the possibility of returning the women to Hawaii.

“;The biggest concern we have is the cost,”; Frank said. The cost to house an inmate at Hawaii's Women's Community Correctional Center is $86 per day, or $3.6 million a year, compared with $58.46 a day in Kentucky.

With the transferred inmates, state prisons will be at 97 to 98 percent capacity, while 91 to 92 percent would be ideal, Frank said.

“;If there are any more additional intakes ... we would have to be very careful that there is no federal intervention,”; said Frank, who added that there is enough staff at the women's facility and the federal detention center.

Overcrowding at Hawaii prisons led to federal oversight from 1985 to 1999.

Espero asked whether $500,000 appropriated by the Legislature for GPS electronic monitoring could be used to offset costs, but Frank said the allocated money was part of Gov. Linda Lingle's budget cut.

“;I was afraid you'd say that. But that is a cost-saving measure that, in my opinion, has the potential to save the state millions of dollars over years, so, although I understand the governor's decision, I think it's the wrong one,”; Espero said.

Frank said many of the female inmates want to remain at Otter Creek because of its minimal security and programs. However, Mary Dias, an aunt of the sexually assaulted inmate, said inmates should not be placed in that kind of environment.

“;Being raped is not part of their sentence. They're women with children who made bad choices,”; said Dias, who added that guards have retaliated against her niece for the report.

“;Why is she still there if she was substantiated?”; Dias said. “;She should've been the first to come home.”;