Tuesday, October 19, 1999

Judicial selection
panel chairman
Wayne Matsuo dies

He had been on the
commission since his
appointment in 1997


By Gregg K. Kakesako


Wayne Matsuo, chairman of the Judicial Selection Commission, died Sunday at his home.

Matsuo -- a University of Hawaii sociology lecturer, juvenile parole officer and administrator, and corrections expert --- was named to a six-year term on the commission in 1997 by Gov. Ben Cayetano.

Matsuo, 56, had worked with youth gangs at Palama Settlement House and with at-risk youths and adult offenders since 1965.

In 1995, Matsuo turned down a cabinet position from Cayetano to spend more time with his family after serving since 1989 as the executive director of state Office of Youth Services.

Matsuo at that time cited a heart condition as well as a grueling six-days-a week schedule as factors influencing his decision to retire.

Matsuo had worked for 27 years in adult and juvenile corrections.

He was acting state ombudsman before he was named as the first director of the Office of Youth Services in 1989. He helped draft legislation creating the office.

Hawaii's juvenile offender program has served as a model for other such as Nebraska and Missouri, which patterned their programs after the state's.

Civil Rights attorney Dan Foley said Matsuo's passing is "a huge loss to the state."

Foley noted that the American Civil Liberties Union had wanted him to take the job as director of the Department of Public Safety.

"I think it was a loss to the state that he didn't become director of public safety," Foley added.

"He was a real progressive force in the area of criminal justice," Foley added. He said Matsuo advocated alternatives to incarceration and wasn't swayed by public opinion polls.

William Hoshijo, executive director of the state Civil Rights Commission, said Matsuo's death was "definitely a huge loss not just for the people who knew him, but to the broader community.

"He was really an unique person who had a combination of substantive expertise, common sense and a real feel for what was right and wrong. We have lost a valuable resource."

A gang member at McKinley High School, Matsuo later worked with street gangs in the 1960s. He received a master's degree in sociology from the University of Hawaii in 1976, and became the assistant director at the UH's Youth Development and Research Center. In 1983, he became acting ombudsman. He left that post when he was appointed as executive director of the Office of Youth Services.

He has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Juvenile Correctional Administrators and a member of the delegate assembly of the American Correctional Association.

Survivors include his widow, Gail; two daughters, Stacy and Lianne; and two sisters, Diane Kahanu and Jean Matsuo.

Funeral services will be held at 6 p.m. Oct. 26 at Nuuanu Mortuary. The family requests that flowers be omitted.

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