Thursday, July 15, 1999

Policy change may void
some Laumaka parole plans

By Crystal Kua


Inmate William Bal is nearly done paying his debt to society and hopes to use the skills he's learned at his current work release job to pursue a career in computers once he gets out.

But a recent policy change by officials at the state Department of Public Safety's Laumaka Work Furlough Center may hurt his chance at parole in two months and cause problems for his current employer.

Laumaka is a transitional program for inmates on the verge of being paroled.

Bal is one of five Laumaka inmates who work at Aloha Productions, a downtown company that publishes "Hawaii's Most Wanted" magazine and souvenir Pop Warner football yearbooks.

Aloha Productions also obtains advertising for these publications by marketing through telephone solicitation.

Bal and fellow inmates Charles Ah Yun, Justin Agustin, Isaiah Kini and Albert Rivera received word from Laumaka officials that the Hawaii Paroling Authority would not consider for parole any Laumaka inmates who are working at "high-risk" jobs such as telemarketing, door-to-door sales, security guard, bartender work, cocktail serving, automobile sales and home delivery.

The July memo to the inmates said they needed to find a full-time employment elsewhere by July 31. But Al Beaver, Paroling Authority chairman, said the recommendation is for certain classifications of inmates such as sex offenders or those convicted of crimes related to "preying on the public" such as con artists.

Aloha Productions co-owner Mary Jean Henry said she agrees with Beaver on those types of classifications but the inmates who currently work for her don't fall within those classifications.

Public Safety Institutions Division Administrator Ed Shimoda said that officials at the Oahu Community Correctional Center, which oversees the Laumaka inmates, are reacting to what the Paroling Authority has told them. A written clarification from the Paroling Authority would help to resolve the situation, he said.

"We want to clear it up," Shimoda said. "I think the Paroling Authority needs to take the lead but it shouldn't stop OCCC from taking the initiative if there's a change or a misunderstanding of what was said."

In the meantime, inmates must still follow the directive given to them by Laumaka officials, which means they must find another job until they're told otherwise.

Aloha Productions was the only company willing to take a chance on them.

"Without a doubt they gave us an opportunity," said the 41-year-old Kini, who will be paroled in two weeks after serving a four-year term for a probation violation stemming from a terroristic threatening conviction.

Henry said that except for one instance, Aloha Productions has not had problems with the Laumaka inmates since the first inmate came to work for her firm a year ago. That inmate has since paroled, she said.

"They are trustworthy and hard workers," Henry said.

Bal, 24, is serving a five-year prison term for manslaughter for a 1995 shooting in Hilo.

A Big Island judge sentenced Bal as a youthful offender, cutting a potential 10-year term in half because the judge believed that Bal could be rehabilitated.

Bal says he's trying to prove the judge right and thought his stint at Aloha Productions would enable him to do that by learning communication and computer skills.

Bal said that if he's forced to give up this job, he probably won't find another job in time to meet his obligations because he has a broken hand. If he's unable to find a job, he probably will lose his work release status and be sent back to OCCC, delaying parole.

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