Friday, April 23, 1999

Inmate, 47, found
trying to kill himself

By Jaymes K. Song


Guards yesterday discovered a 47-year-old Halawa prison inmate standing on a toilet with a bedsheet that dangled from the air conditioning vent, tied around his neck.

The convicted sex offender was among numerous prisoners who attempted suicide this year, prompting public safety officials to upgrade prison cells and operations.

Four inmates have died in suicides, including island entertainer Bryant "Mackey" Feary Jr., who hanged himself at Halawa on Feb. 22.

"They're criminals, but they're still humans," said acting Public Safety Director Ted Sakai. "Our job is to take care of them while securing them. That's our job."

The inmate who attempted suicide yesterday was being held in a special cell after he assaulted another prisoner a month ago. He was taken to Queen's Hospital for observation, and is back in prison on suicide watch.

Prison officials are investigating whether the suicide attempt was a hoax.

"It might have been a gesture of some sort," Sakai said. "We're seeing why he was trying to get our attention."

Prison officials are implementing several changes suggested by a mainland consultant, including:

Bullet Improving communication with all prison workers about suicidal or potentially suicidal inmates.

Bullet Improving intake procedures to learn if an inmate is potentially suicidal.

Bullet Staggering checks on inmates at different times.

Bullet Improving suicide-watch cells by adding more windows for better monitoring.

Bullet Removing air conditioning vents in the suicide-watch cells so inmates can't use them to hang themselves.

Bullet Instituting mental-health training for all adult-corrections officers.

Bullet Transporting suicide-watch inmates at Maui Community Correctional Center to Oahu because of the lack of facilities at Maui.

Public safety officials have discussed inmate suicides and alerted wardens and medical personnel from the eight state prisons.

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