Saturday, February 6, 1999

Reports of prison
abuse delivered
to prosecutors

A Senate panel heard many
allegations, some in private,
of corruption and inmate abuse

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Legislature '99 A state Senate committee has turned over allegations of inmate abuse and corruption in Hawaii's eight prisons to city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle and U.S. Attorney Steve Alm.

Senate Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley said Department of Public Safety staff members and adult corrections officers gave his committee confidential information that was relayed to Carlisle and Alm.

Alm said it is his policy never to confirm or deny that an investigation is being conducted.

"I consider any problem in prison serious," Alm said.

He said he doesn't comment on such cases until charges are made. "This is to protect folks in case nothing comes of it -- no harm, no foul."

Carlisle was not available for comment.

In issuing a 14-page report on the problems in the prison system, Chumbley said the committee during its two-day hearing last week "heard stories of corruption and inappropriate staff misconduct in which inmates were allegedly abused throughout the state correctional system."

Chumbley's report said that while the committee cannot judge the validity of such reports, there is "a widespread perception of abuse" that must "serve as a clear warning sign that the Public Safety Department has many significant problems to overcome."

Most of the incriminating information was not disclosed during last week's public hearings, Chumbley said, but was as a result of private and personal meetings.

"This potential incriminating evidence could lead to criminal indictments," the Maui Democrat added.

Most of the allegations center on Halawa Correctional Facility, but it is not isolated to the Oahu prison, he said.

Chumbley gave acting state Public Safety Director Ted Sakai until March 10 to come up with a plan dealing with the management and communication problems within the system.

The Senate Judiciary Committee also wants:

bullet The legislative auditor to conduct a comprehensive financial and management audit of Sakai's department with annual follow-up audits for the next four years.

bullet An interim joint House-Senate committee to provide oversight and monitor the department's progress.

bullet A deputy attorney general and support staff to be assigned to the corrections department to manage and monitor inmate grievances.

Sakai, who said his staff hasn't had time to review all the recommendations of Chumbley's committee, said he "wants to improve the state's correctional system and will work with the Senate to make the improvements that are necessary."

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