Thursday, April 19, 2001

Guard towers and barbed wire have not been enough to keep
prisoners from escaping from Oahu Community
Correctional Center in Kalihi.

Prospect of
moving OCCC draws
interest and support

Kalihi-Palama residents look
forward to state Senate study

By Pat Omandam

PETER BARENG of Kalihi often hears from neighbors who worry about another prison escape from Oahu Community Correctional Center.

Bareng and other members of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board feel a state Senate resolution to study the cost of moving the prison is a worthy pursuit for both residents and inmates.

"If they go to a secluded area where there is no neighbor and they get some work to do (farming) the land ... they can have some kind of producing income," Bareng said.

Otherwise, Bareng jokes, "Why don't they make a (prison) wall up to the sky?"

The House Public Safety Committee was to hear the resolution this morning to study the economic viability of relocating OCCC from its current location at Dillingham Boulevard and Puuhale Street.

And at 6:30 p.m. today at the Puuhale School cafeteria, area legislators will sponsor an informational briefing for the community with prisons Director Ted Sakai on the recent escapes and what's being done to prevent them.

The state Senate last Thursday adopted a resolution saying OCCC has outgrown its site and its redesign in the 1970s is conducive to escapes, such as those experienced earlier this year. One of the inmates, Kerbert Silva, escaped twice within a two-month period from OCCC by scaling its fences.

If relocated and replaced with a new facility, the Senate believes operational costs would be lowered significantly and security of the facility and for the community would be improved.

The current property could be sold and the value used to offset the cost of moving the prison.

"I think it would be nice to move it elsewhere and use that valuable piece of land for something else," said Bernadette S.M. Young, chairwoman of the Kalihi-Palama Neighborhood Board.

Young said the current board hasn't taken a formal position on moving OCCC, but she personally favors it. She sees the real problem in the not-in-my-backyard opposition expected to occur across Oahu when state lawmakers begin searching for a new prison site.

"Everybody's saying they don't want the prison on the other islands too. So that is the problem. Where are you going to put the prison?"Still, House Public Safety Chairman Nestor Garcia (D, Waipio) said he isn't sold on the idea, which has been floated in past sessions, but he wants to hear what people have to say at today's hearing. The Public Safety Department testified in favor of the idea. Sakai could not be reached for comment yesterday.

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