Friday, January 8, 1999

still trouble
Halawa prison

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Overtime and the lack of bed space continue to plague the state's Halawa Correctional Facility, increasing the need for a new medium security prison, prison officials said today.

Statewide, even after shipping 1,200 inmates to mainland prisons, there are now 3,569 inmates in eight island correctional facilities designed to hold 3,122.

At Halawa, Warden Eric Penarosa said the state's largest correctional institution was originally designed to hold only 586 inmates, but with modifications its operationally capacity was doubled to 1,046 beds.

"Last night my head count was 1,314 inmates," Penarosa told members of the Senate Ways and Means Committee today.

That is even after the state transferred 1,200 inmates to institutions in Tennessee, Minnesota and Oklahoma.

Penarosa said "an equally serious problem" is corrections officer overtime.

"Overtime is directly caused by vacant posts due to special-assignments posts for emergencies and investigations, hospital duty, suicide watches and vacant officer positions due to high staff turnover."

Penarosa said he now has 12 vacant positions and expects that number to climb since he has been informed by prison guards that they may leave for mainland jobs or better-paying ones with the Honolulu Police Department.

Ted Sakai, the state's new corrections head, earlier told the committee that although overtime has been cut back, it still remains a problem.

"It is still too high for me," Sakai said.

Attempts have been made with the prison guard's union - the United Public Workers -- to reduce the level of sick leave abuse, iron out scheduling problems and "go after guards who don't show up for work."

Although Gov. Ben Cayetano initially proposed that the new prison be built by a private developer and leased back to the state, he now wants to use state funds.

He has requested $150 million in the state's new two-year budget to build a 2,300-bed medium security facility seven miles below the Kulani Correctional Facility near Volcano on the Big Island.

Last November the state began a $2.2 million environmental impact study to determine the problems that might be encountered by building a prison in that area.

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