Friday, March 5, 1999


Mackey Feary
was caught in a
familiar cycle

Up to half of Hawaii's new
prison admissions are cases
like his, results of the addiction-
prison-relapse treadmill

Feary's widow barred from funeral
Specialists: Relapse fit the pattern
Final photo?

By Lori Tighe


The law couldn't stop him, prisons couldn't stop him, and he couldn't stop himself.

Singer Bryant "Mackey" Feary Jr. couldn't shake his addiction to crystal methamphetamine or his depression. But in the end, he blamed the state for betraying him like a spurned lover in his Kalapana song "The Hurt."

"Let the world know how unfair the state of Hawaii is to those of us with our specific type of medical problem," Feary wrote in his suicide note.

The singer tied a bedsheet around his neck and hanged himself in his prison cell Feb. 20: two days after a judge refused to reconsider his 10-year sentence.

Feary's case highlights what happens to many inmates. They relapse in their drug addictions and go back to prison. Yet only 6 percent of inmates receive treatment, while up to 90 percent suffer from addictions, according to state statistics. Treatment programs on the outside get shorter and shorter because of a lack of funds -- which increase chances for drug relapses.

Many blame the system. But those in criminal justice say Feary's chances ran out and the public can't pay for more.

Feary's widow to be barred
from funeral tomorrow

By Gregg K. Kakesako


The widow of entertainer Bryant "Mackey" Feary will be barred from the funeral of her husband tomorrow under a temporary restraining order issued today by Circuit Judge Marie Milks.

However, Milks ordered Feary's family to allow Danalee Akana her own private viewing of his body and a private service.

The order was requested by the entertainer's father -- Bryant Mackey Feary Sr. -- to prevent his son's estranged wife, Akana, from attending the funeral. Public viewing at Hawaiian Memorial Park will begin at 8:30 in the morning with a service to follow at noon. Burial will be at 2 p.m.

Akana's attorney Mark Cusmano said the family is trying to blame her for their son's problems.

The state's trend of locking up the highest rate of prisoners in the nation is fueling a suicidal climate, said Meda Chesney-Lind , a University of Hawaii-Manoa criminologist and national expert on crime trends.

As high as half of Hawaii's new prison admissions resemble Feary's case: They violated probation or parole and were sent back to prison often for drug relapses, Chesney-Lind said.

Throwing them back in prison with limited drug treatment programs hasn't worked, she said. Hawaii needs to seek alternatives.

"Relapse is part of the normal drug treatment program. You expect failure and you keep working with people," Chesney-Lind said.

Prisons dehumanize inmates through overcrowding, lack of treatment programs, strip searches and the stigma of incarceration, she said.

Four prisoners have committed suicide since January, including Feary.

"People need to keep this in perspective. Mackey Feary is now dead. We don't use capital punishment to punish someone for a drug problem and an inability to get over relationships," Chesney-Lind said.

The system failed Feary on several fronts, said his lawyer, William Harrison. The prison overlooked his previous attempted suicide, and the courts made an example out of him because of his drug relapses.

Harrison, representing Feary's family, filed a lawsuit last Friday against the state claiming negligence. The Halawa Correctional Facility failed to psychologically and medically evaluate him, despite knowledge of his history. Feary had a dual diagnosis, a long addiction to crystal methamphetamine, or "ice," compounded by clinical depression.

"They could have placed him in a specialized medical treatment unit with no access to bed sheets. A nurse or doctor would have observed him for at least 30 days. But that wasn't done in his case," Harrison said. "He fell through the cracks."

Feary's older sister, Dancetta Kamai said, "We're very, very disappointed in the system."

She and the rest of Feary's family are angry because prison guards didn't constantly watch Feary, who had tried to hang himself during his first stint in jail in 1996.

Feary told several people, including Kamai, if he went back to prison he would kill himself.

The family didn't want to talk about it further until they bury Feary tomorrow, she said. "This is really killing my parents. He was their star."

Ted Sakai, acting public safety director, said he doesn't know if Feary had been evaluated, or if the prison knew about his dual diagnosis.

"He had just entered our system. He wasn't in treatment. He was waiting for the paroling authority to set a minimum sentence," he said.

Feary was at Halawa for nearly a month when he committed suicide.

Sakai acknowledged that Hawaii's prisons sorely lack drug treatment.

"Legislators are taking a hard look at this now. They are really interested in funding drug treatment," he said.

Bills circulating in the state House and Senate address alternatives to prison for people like Feary. They call for more money spent on Drug Court, treatment and transitional housing.

"If Mackey Feary's death only grabbed people's attention, I'll see what I can do to ride that sentiment," said Rep. Nestor Garcia, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.

But Feary's violent history eliminated him from programs such as Drug Court, which wipes out a conviction if the person successfully graduates from treatment, said city Prosecutor Peter Carlisle.

Prison was the answer, he said. Feary became a threat to the public when he couldn't control his drug problem. "When do you say public safety is paramount? Anybody who had the history he had on the grace of probation would be revoked," Carlisle said.


Feary's troubles surfaced when he went to the Waimalu Shopping Center on Sept. 4, 1996, looking for money and his wife, Dana Akana. The couple were separated after two years of marriage.

Police said Feary demanded money from Akana in the parking lot, but she refused. Feary jumped on the car and smashed the windshield with a hammer. He also rammed her car with his vehicle. But he didn't hurt Akana.

Police found an ice pipe and a small amount of ice on Feary. The day after his arrest, Feary wrapped his T-shirt around his cell door and hanged himself at the Pearl City police substation. Police cut him down and took him to Kapiolani Hospital.

Feary pleaded guilty to felony criminal property damage and two drug counts in a plea agreement.

Feary served six months of a one-year prison sentence for the ice charges in exchange for entrance to drug treatment. Feary also received five years' probation for criminal property damage.

He vowed to stay in drug rehab and be an example to the community, but ice called him back.

Judge Fa'auuga To'oto'o revoked Feary's probation Jan. 21 for three reasons, Harrison said: Feary twice tested positive to ice; he violated a temporary restraining order; and he didn't show up for a drug treatment program for a week.

"Judge To'oto'o is an excellent judge," said First Deputy Prosecutor Iwalani White. "We give people chances. We've heard every excuse in the book. You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink."

"I'm sorry Mackey Feary is dead. But he made his own decisions in his life. The question is whose responsibility is it?"


A series of errors worsened Feary's circumstances, Harrison said.

Feary couldn't contact his estranged wife and three stepdaughters due to a temporary restraining order. Yet one of the stepdaughters called Feary just hours before Feary's 25th anniversary Kalapana concert Nov. 8, Harrison said.

An argument ensued, and Feary hung up. The stepdaughter reported Feary, who was arrested for violating a temporary restraining order, Harrison said.

Harrison also claims Feary tested false-positively on the two drug tests because he had been on Paxil, an antidepressant.

But drug treatment specialist Joan Sakaba said in most cases like Feary's the courts go to a second, more precise test called gas chromatography mass spectrometry to verify the initial screening.

Feary's doctor, Barry Odegaard, said, "Some of Bryant's (Feary's) drug tests were negative before and after his two positive tests. That leads me to believe it could have been false positive because crystal methamphetamine stays in your body so long," about 24 hours.

The doctor also wrote a note to Feary's probation officer excusing him from missing his drug treatment program Jan. 11-14 because of the flu.

But Feary's probation officer asked that Feary be terminated from the program.

To'oto'o called the evidence against Feary "substantial and inexcusable."

"You were given a gift by the court and you blundered it," he told Feary, as he ordered him to begin a 10-year sentence.

Harrison had three days to get his witnesses to a hearing for reconsideration. One doctor couldn't make it, another was off-island. Nor could another lay witness make it. Harrison asked for a delay, but the court denied it.

"I think the court had its mind made up already," Harrison said, noting it usually takes two weeks to a month to schedule this type of hearing.

To'oto'o did not respond to several calls for comment.

"The last time I saw him (Feary), his attitude was surprisingly upbeat. He said, 'Don't worry, I'm at peace with myself,'" Harrison said. "Now I look back and I realize he was telling me he was prepared to die."

Specialists say Feary’s
relapse was within
pattern of addiction

"Well it seems so long I've tried and tried.
It only makes more things to hide."
"Yes I'm lost my friend, yes I'm lost again ...
Yes I'm lost. What does it cost?"

-- Lost Again, Mackey Feary Jr.

By Lori Tighe


Mackey Feary Jr. had gotten lost again in drugs and depression, despite two attempts at treatment.

But drug addiction specialists consider relapse a normal part of recovery that can last a lifetime.

Feary's relapses caused his probation for criminal property damage to be revoked and his return to prison for 10 years.

"Can you imagine the shock Mackey Feary felt when he heard relapse is normal, and the judge said, 'No, I don't believe that. You had chances. You relapsed. You go back to prison,' " said Mason Henderson, executive director of Sand Island Treatment Center.

The term "relapse is normal" has become common because programs have gotten shorter in the past five years due to dwindling funds, Henderson said.

The Department of Health's Elaine Wilson said: "Managed care resulted in shortening drug treatment programs. They only reimburse about five days of residential treatment and two substance abuse episodes per lifetime."

Publicly paid treatment is more generous, covering a maximum stay of four months residential. But the state has enough money for only 85 residential beds among the state's 400 licensed beds.

Yet the waiting list to get residential treatment ranges from 150 to 300 people a day -- not because of filled beds, but because the state can't afford it, Wilson said.

Crystal methamphetamine remains the toughest addiction to treat because of the its high-and-low cycle which can last several days, said Dr. Tom Leland, medical director of Community Care Services.

Chronic abuse of ice can lead to intense paranoia resulting in homicidal and suicidal thoughts. It causes rages and violent behavior, Leland said. Evidence suggests long-term use can cause permanent brain damage.

"With sufficient treatment, they can develop refusal skills to get them through craving and stress," Henderson said.

The Sand Island center views sufficient treatment for an ice user to be residential treatment between four and eight months, and then follow-up for up to a year.

Add a mental disorder, such as Feary's depression, and the problem becomes a two-headed monster called "dual diagnosis."

Hawaii has no known statistics of its dually diagnosed population, Wilson said. National estimates range from 20 percent to 70 percent of the mental health and substance abuse populations.

Many programs will cut people when funding runs dry, Henderson said, although Sand Island doesn't. Feary couldn't afford to pay for his treatment so the state picked up the tab, according to the courts.

Feary completed the residential portion of Victory Ohana program, but tested negative for ice during the outpatient portion. He briefly entered the Salvation Army's program but was transferred to Queen's Hospital outpatient program for dually diagnosed. His probation officer asked that Feary be terminated from the program when he failed to show up, according to Feary's lawyer.

"Just because he's a celebrity, it doesn't mean he shouldn't be treated like everyone else," said Deputy Prosecutor Maurice Arrisgado.

But Feary's celebrity status did cause the courts to treat him differently, Feary's attorney William Harrison said. The state gave him the maximum sentence to set an example, Henderson said.

"I've been practicing law in Hawaii for 18 years," Harrison said, "and this is the first time I've ever seen anyone slammed with 10 years in prison because he had a drug and mental health problem."

By Damian Paul, special to the Star-Bulletin
Mackey Feary, in perhaps the last picture of him performing.

A Mackey memory
—final photo?

By Burl Burlingame


A Friday night smack dab in the middle of January.

Gordon Biersch, pier-side in the Aloha Tower Marketplace, was chockablock with eager-to-unwind urban professionals. A hazy scrim of cigarette smoke swirled among the tables; glasses and mugs clattered and thumped; a din of overlapping small talk ebbed and roared like surf. In the corner, Mackey Feary played an acoustic guitar and sang. The melody was largely lost in the noise.

Damian Paul of Kailua noticed that Feary didn't seem to mind the bustling, oblivious audience. Paul and his wife, Karen, sat at a nearby table and listened to Feary play.

At a break, Damian Paul reintroduced himself to Feary -- they had met several times over the years -- and said he and Karen had always enjoyed Feary's work.

"Really?" said Feary. "Thank you."

By Karen Paul, special to the Star-Bulletin
Damian Paul poses with a smilingMackey Feary
at Gordon Biersch, Aloha Tower Marketplace
in January. One week later, Feary went to prison.

He joined the Pauls at their table. No one else paid attention.

Feary was focused and friendly, though not talkative.

Karen asked Feary to autograph some of his compact disks, which the Pauls had brought just in case, when they set out to see Feary that evening.

"Thanks," Feary said, signing the CDs.

"Well, I've got to get back to work," said Feary, and paused for a snapshot with Damian. Karen took the picture.

The musician resumed performing.

The Pauls listened for a few more songs, and swung by Feary on the way out to wave goodbye. Damian took another picture, a frame of Feary playing guitar and singing, the thing he loved to do. As they left, Feary's voice and the plaintive lines of his guitar were swallowed by the din of bar-noise. The melody vanished in the warm night.

Six days later, Feary was sent back to prison for violating the terms of his five-year probation. Alone in his cell, Feary killed himself on Feb. 20.

Damian Paul's snapshot may be the last picture of Mackey Feary performing in public.


Where to get help

Here's a list of the state court's contracted substance-abuse treatment providers:

bullet The Alcoholic Rehabilitation Services of Hawaii: Hina Mauka, 45-845 Po'okela St., Kaneohe, HI 96744; telephone: 236-2600; fax: 236-2626; adult residential, day, intensive outpatient, outpatient and supportive living treatment

bullet Drug Addiction Services of Hawaii: Cornerstone Program, 1130 N. Nimitz Highway, C-302, Honolulu 96817; telephone: 538-0704; fax: 538-0474; adult outpatient treatment

bullet Hawaii Alcoholism Foundation: Sand Island Treatment Center, P.O. Box 3045, Honolulu 96802; phone: 841-2319; fax: 841-4278; adult residential treatment

bullet Po'ailani Inc.: 1330 Nanialii St., Kailua 96734; telephone: 263-1065; fax: 263-3157; adult residential, day, intensive outpatient, outpatient and supportive living treatment for the client with co-occurring disorders (dual-diagnosis).

bullet The Queen's Medical Center Day Hospital: 1301 Punchbowl St., second floor, Honolulu 96813; telephone: 547-4352; fax: 547-4574; adult day, intensive outpatient, outpatient treatment for the client with co-occurring disorders (dual-diagnosis).

bullet Salvation Army Addiction Treatment Services: 3624 Waokanaka St., Honolulu, HI 96817; telephone: 595-6371; fax: 595-8250; adult residential, intensive outpatient, outpatient and supportive living treatment

bullet Salvation Army Family Treatment Services: 845 22nd Ave., Honolulu 96816; telephone: 732-2801; fax: 734-7470; adult residential, day, intensive outpatient, outpatient and supportive living treatment for pregnant and parenting women and their children.

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