Friday, November 26, 1999

Photo by Prairie Correctional Facility
Hawaii inmate Euel Kamauu addresses inmates at
the Prairie Correctional Facility during a Lifeline
substance abuse treatment program.

Isle inmate
on mainland hails
drug abuse treatment

Prairie Correctional Facility
in Minnesota offers the Lifeline
program to parole hopefuls

By Gregg K. Kakesako


Forty-seven Hawaii inmates doing time in Minnesota for drug-related crimes are hoping that the power of peer pressure will turn their lives around.

"I am not getting any younger," said Euel Kamauu in a recent telephone interview from a cell at Minnesota's Prairie Correctional Facility. "I want to spend time at the beach and leave all of this in my past."

Kamauu, 43, has been in trouble since he was 13. He is now serving a 20-year sentence for three counts of armed robbery.

But since April, Kamauu -- one of 659 Hawaii inmates at the Minnesota prison -- has been enrolled in its "Lifeline" program for substance abuse.

Substance abuse treatment programs are a must for inmates like Kamauu, who is seeking parole. He won't be eligible until 2004.

He participated in similar programs while imprisoned at the Halawa Correctional Facility, but said this time it's different -- different because he believes facilities are better at the 1,345-bed prison, in the western part of Minnesota and run by Corrections Corp. of America (CCA). "There are so many more programs in Minnesota than at Halawa," Kamauu said.

"I miss being away from home," he added, referring to Prairie's remote location in Appleton, 30 miles from the South Dakota border. "But that's a small price to pay to grow up and to better myself."

There also isn't the problem of overcrowding like at Halawa. Only 859 inmates are now imprisoned in Prairie, which has a capacity to house 1,345 criminals.

Kamauu maintains it has only been in the past few years he has realized that "I come from a good family and that I was raised on good values. My mother was a kumu hula ... but I strayed."

He said the Minnesota program is "more intense," although the living arrangements are similar to those at Halawa, where participants in substance abuse treatment programs are segregated from the general population.

Nicole Ward, addiction treatment counselor at Prairie, said CCA started the Lifeline program in 1993. Graduates continue to participate in it by acting as counselors.

"While we have many educational and work skills programs here that help inmates turn their lives around, the reality for our Hawaiians is a high need for drug abuse treatment," said Prairie Warden Hoyt Brill.

"The Hawaiian inmates are wonderful to work with, eager to learn and willing to participate."

For his part, Kamauu said when he first enrolled in Lifeline, "the program just didn't make any sense to me at all.

"Some of these things were in total contrast to the way I thought and believed for many years. But then again, the way I thought and believed for many years resulted in my being where I am today.

"Now I'm realizing that part of Lifeline's goal is to make someone like myself aware of the little things that I do -- a lot of which are criminal in nature and have become so much a part of me that I hardly know I'm doing it. I need help to learn how to live right, or pono, as Hawaiians would say."

Besides taking classes in anger management, substance abuse, and criminal and violent behavior, Lifeline participants also take part in encounter groups where issues are "aired out," and attend one-on-one counseling sessions, Kamauu said.

Besides Minnesota, CCA currently houses 1,182 Hawaii inmates in facilities in Oklahoma and Tennessee under a plan designed to ease overcrowding in island facilities.

Gov. Ben Cayetano has wanted to build a 2,300-bed prison at Kulani on the Big Island, but the Legislature has not approved any funds for it. The state now is contemplating building the facility on the mainland.

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