Mark Bennett, state attorney general, congratulated John Peyton after his nomination as state public safety director was recommended for approval by a Senate committee yesterday.

Drug rehab, private
prison on safety
nominee’s list

By Richard Borreca

Intensive drug rehabilitation programs, increased professional training and a serious look at building a private prison are all on the agenda for John Peyton, the nominee to run the state Department of Public Safety.

State of Hawaii Gov. Linda Lingle nominated Peyton, 58, a veteran federal prosecutor, after her first nominee, Honolulu Assistant Police Chief Stephen Watarai, withdrew his nomination.

Peyton, who easily won confirmation from the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday, is expected to be confirmed by the Senate before it adjourns in May.

When the Cayetano administration left office last year, it had been exploring a private prison proposal that would have called for building a new prison near the existing Halawa medium-security prison and closing the overcrowded Oahu Community Correctional Center in Kalihi. After Lingle won, she expressed interest in a prison proposal by Waianae doctor Terry Shintani, who wanted to explore a vegetarian diet as a way to modify prisoners' behavior.

Peyton did not commit to any plan yesterday, saying the privately built prison "is one of the potential solutions."

Peyton added that he was also interested in making sure that the security officers with public safety, from prison guards to deputy sheriffs, are free from political influence.

"I want to create a department that has complete confidence that decisions are made on the merits and that politics does not enter into decision-making," Peyton said.

"More important, it is an attitude that we need to make sure is prevalent. The attitude is that we work for the people, we are here to do justice and we are here to make decisions on the merits, and that is the only way we do business," Peyton said.

He added that prisoners with drug problems need better care than they are getting in state prisons.

"There is a portion of the prison population that is salvageable. We need to concentrate our efforts on diagnoses to get those people into serious drug treatment rather than the superficial treatment that has been provided in the past," Peyton said.

Department of Public Safety
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