Director says youth
prison is improving

Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility administrators have increased employee training and decreased inmate population in the nine months since a report alleged overcrowding and abuse at the center, a top official told lawmakers yesterday.

Sharon Agnew, executive director of the Office of Youth Services, said at a legislative briefing yesterday that she has made changes at the facility since the American Civil Liberties Union's report was released. But, Agnew said, her office is still working to address the report's criticisms. And an ACLU official says the center still has a long way to go.

"The ACLU has continuing concerns," said staff attorney Susan Dorsey. She said "easy things," like making sure youths get enough recreation time, have not yet been changed.

She also said a "handful" of police reports have been filed against the facility's guards since the ACLU report was made public and that employees under criminal investigation are still working at the facility alongside prisoners.

That conflicted with Agnew's account.

She said she had not heard of any recent police reports filed against the center's guards and that none of her employees are suspected of criminal wrongdoing.

She also said no guards were on administrative leave, as required if they were under scrutiny. Police officers assigned to investigate crimes against juveniles could not be reached for comment yesterday.

In her presentation to members of the Senate and House, Agnew outlined her goals for the facility, which include beefing up transition services for inmates leaving the facility and increasing leadership training for administrators.

"What it really comes down to is we want to give the right services for the right child at the right time in the right way," she said. "These are kids who are violent who have really done serious crimes. ... These are tough kids. They're not easy to work with."

The hearing also comes as lawmakers consider a measure requesting an audit of the Office of Youth Services, which oversees the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility.

There are 67 youths at the facility, down from 90 in July. Fifty-five of the center's inmates are boys, Agnew said. The capacity of the facility is 40 -- 10 girls and 30 boys.

After the ACLU report was released in August, Gov. Linda Lingle replaced the center's top management. The attorney general's office also launched a criminal investigation into practices at the Kailua center.

Deputy Attorney General Richard Bissen said at yesterday's briefing that his office's investigation is ongoing.

So far, two former youth facility employees have been indicted. Guard Lia Olione was indicted Sept. 16 on 10 felony counts, accused of raping a girl at the facility. In October, guard Myles Manlinguis was indicted on a charge of intimidating a witness by allegedly threatening an inmate "to influence his testimony."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


E-mail to City Desk


Text Site Directory:
[News] [Business] [Features] [Sports] [Editorial] [Do It Electric!]
[Classified Ads] [Search] [Subscribe] [Info] [Letter to Editor]
© 2004 Honolulu Star-Bulletin --