Saturday, January 30, 1999

Prison rife
with sex, drugs

State senators say they
are not surprised, but
conditions are improving

By Craig Gima


The stories from former inmates were about sex and drugs at the Women's Community Correctional Center in Kailua -- but state senators said they were not surprised to hear them and that the situation has improved.

On the second day of a hearing into problems of abuse at Hawaii's prisons, former inmate Chianti Camara told the Senate Judiciary Committee of a system of favors between guards and inmates: Inmates kept silent about abuses and rules violations by guards, who in turn provided cigarettes or did other favors for inmates.

Camara said a female guard had an affair with an inmate in 1994, but inmates kept quiet about it because of the system. And she told of a night of sex in prison dorms, during which an inmate kept watch from the control module for guards and would let couples know if someone was coming by calling "red light" or "green light."

Camara also said drugs were available at the prison and were smuggled in by visitors and correctional officers.

Senators and new Public Safety Director Ted Sakai said they believe many of the abuses at the women's prison have been corrected.

"I think most of it are incidents that happened in the past," Sakai said. "The issue of the late-night shenanigans -- the woman did say in happened in 1994. I hope these things aren't going on, obviously."

When asked about drugs and abuse, other former inmates who were in prison more recently said drugs were available at the prison but that they did not have firsthand knowledge of abuses.

"It is my understanding there have been significant improvements in the operation of WCCC in the last two years," said Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley (D, Kihei). "A lot of the comments that were made today by the women who were here before us were from several years ago."

Another former inmate, Peggy Wray-Nakamura, said the Public Safety Department should give guards better training and rotate them through different facilities to discourage relationships between guards and inmates.

"There's too much aloha in our facilities," Wray-Nakamura said.

All of the former inmates said more vocational and treatment programs are needed in the women's prison.

"Helping them live out in the community is a lot better than keeping them incarcerated," said Lorraine Robinson, director of T.J. Mahoney & Associates, a 36-bed transitional program for female offenders.

Not all of the testimony yesterday was about the women's prison.

The sister of an inmate who died while in custody last month complained that she was not notified that he was transferred to a hospital until five days after he was admitted.

Geraldine Yee Hoy said her family was not able to see her brother James Freudengberg until after he had slipped into a coma.

She still has not been able to get information about her brother's death and what kind of medical care was provided.

Committee Co-Chairman Matt Matsunaga said the committee has also heard from inmates and others who have written or telephoned his office but did not want to testify publicly.

He said the committee will be questioning Sakai about his plans to rectify problems at the prison, and the issue will be a factor in his confirmation hearing.

The committee will meet again Friday to discuss findings and make recommendations about the prisons.

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