Hawaii Watch

Sakai: Bring Women Prisoners Home

State Settles In Mackey Feary Suicide


October 18, 2000

Halawa Inmate Takes Own Life

- from our Hawaii correspondent Mavis Lorraine

A 34-year-old Halawa Prison inmate died last night after he tried to hang himself in the prison's work area. Prison officials say Wade Embernate used a rope in the machine shop to hang himself from a second floor railing. He was discovered a short time later and rushed to Kaiser Permanente Medical Center in Moanalua.

Prison officials were notified of Embernate's death shortly before seven last night.

Embernate had been at Halawa since 1996 on two counts of assault and probation violation. In April of 1999 prison officials brought in a suicide prevention expert from the mainland to recommend improvements at all state prisons. Since then, five inmates have taken their own lives. Two of them at Halawa

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August 25 2000

The tattoos of two Oregon deputies appear to have their roots here at Halawa Correctional Facility. The Multnomah (mult-NOH-muh) Sheriff Department is conducting an internal investigation into the deaths of 39-year old Jon Beckel and 47-year old James Luoto ... and an alleged assault on another man in three separate incidences last month. The beatings allegedly occurred in the booking area of the Justice Center Jail in downtown Portland.

The investigation has spread to Hawaii because two of the deputies under investigation have the same tattoo worn by a former Halawa prison guard who went to work there ten months ago. The former prison guard -- Michael Foster -- is not implicated in any of the beatings. But he was fired in Oregon when the investigation revealed he was not truthful during a background check.

Hawaii prison guards who wear the tattoo, "The Brotherhood of the Strong", say it merely identified them as teammates in a weight-lifting competition.

New Warden/New Prison in Hawaii

New Warden Arrives

Friday, August 11, 2000 - 03:40 AM ET

The new warden of Hawaii's federal prison will not oversee any inmates for months, but Joe W. Booker Jr. is already on town setting the groundwork to open the facility sometime next year.

Booker is a native of Tennessee who was always interested in law enforcement. He has been working in prisons for the past 24 years. The last three years in Leavenworth, Kansas at the prison known as the "Big House."

The US Federal Penitentiary was the subject of the 1930 movie "The Big House," and holds 1,635 high security inmates. Booker has no major security concerns with the new facility. "The structure is sound. It is built to house maximum security security inmates." The prison would house a range of inmates from maximum to minimum.

The $58 million facility is designed to house those awaiting trial or other court proceedings in federal court here. Long-term inmates will still be sent to the mainland to serve out their terms. The facility may also hold state inmates.

The state is in negotiations with the federal government to keep inmates there for a fee. The prison will take six months more to complete. But it will take another three to six months to get all staff in place and ready for the new prison.


To demonstrate the ongoing problems in Hawaii`s prison system, we begin with a report from 1996 and carried through the present.


Kaua'i Inmates Deported to Texas Gulag

by Ed Coll 4-8-96

Three inmates from Kauai Community Correctional Center were among 300 inmates from Hawaii who have been deported to Texas prisons. Hawaii joins a host of other states that deport inmates for incarceration in Texas prisons run by private profit making corporations.

Prisons for profit must be a real moneymaker. In Texas they're building a prison a week for the next 18 months. Hawaii's Governor Cayetano is considering privitizing Hawaii's prisons.

Privatization is really a codeword meaning "prisons for profits". Unlike tourism, prisons are a reliable moneymaker. Just ask Pricor, Corrections Corporation of America, and Wackenhut Corrections Corporation who are making big bucks running prisons for profit. With 1.7 million people in U.S. prisons and jails on any given day, the United States has become the world leader in jailing its own population. Why invest in hotels whose occupancy rate goes up and down like a yo-yo when prisons are always full to overflowing.?

With 1.2 million people in U.S. prisons and jails on any given day the United States has become the world leader in jailing its own population, and more coming all the time prisons for profit could be a a real growth opportunity for Hawaii. It means profits for investors and jobs for our people.

If the steady march of increasing numbers of our citizens, usually native Hawaiians and other minorities, into prisons should slow, corporate lobbyists can push for more "get tough" laws to assure ever increasing profits for their stockholders. Just think of the cheap labor force prisoners make.

Many states even think prison labor can compete with third world countries like Indonesia where Nike subcontractors pay workers $1.20 a day to make Nike shoes. "We propose that [Nike] take a look at their transportation cost and their labor cost. We could offer [competitive] prison inmate labor", says Oregon State Representative Kevin Mannix.

Why let China take the lead in harvesting human organs? Activist Harry Wu reported the Chinese were already "harvesting organs" from executed prisoners. We could take Newt Gingrich's advice and "execute drug smugglers" and then harvest their organs. This would be a big boon to Hawaii' s medical industry and save lives as well.

"Prisons for profits" looks like a win-win situation for everyone; jobs for our people, profits for investors, and three hots and a cot for the ever increasing numbers of lawbreakers. My greatest fear is that the above nightmare scenario is becoming reality and people will believe "prisons for profits" is a good idea.

Corporate crime cost the country 10 times more than all street crimes combined. While mass media focuses our attention on sensational street crime, corporate crime cost the country 10 times more than all street crimes combined. Yet it is not corporate executives going to prison, in fact increasingly they are the ones running the place, and for a profit at that.

Imagine a friend, a relative, or even yourself arrested and sent away to some prison run by people wanting to make a profit out of your unfortunate incarceration. Will you be used as slave labor? Will you be beaten or raped? Perhaps a dictionary of prison slang would be useful. This locking people up for profit has gotten way out of hand. All I want is justice not just us in jail.

Of the 308 inmates transferred from Halawa Correctional Facility July 29, 180 inmates were sent to the 1,440-bed North Folk Correctional Facility in Sayre, Okla. The remaining 128 inmates are at the 2,016-bed Hardeman County Correctional Center in Whiteville, Tenn. It will cost the state $44 a day to house the inmates in Oklahoma and Tennessee.

Call the Halawa Correctional Facility at 486-2600 if you are interested in the status of a particular inmate.

There is a total of 900 Hawaii inmates, including 64 women, in prisons in Texas, Tennessee and Oklahoma.


Federal Oversight of State Prisons to End

Friday, November 20, 1998 News Release

Governor Ben Cayetano today announced that federal supervision under the Spear consent decree over the Oahu Community Correctional Facility will end after 14 years.

"Since 1985, two of Hawaii's prisons have been under federal consent decrees," Governor Cayetano said. "Earlier this year, we ended 13 years of federal court supervision of the women's prison, and by next March, we are ending 14 years of federal supervision of the Oahu Community Correctional Facility. "

"It has been a challenge for the state to improve prison conditions, considering our tight fiscal constraints, but we have done it. "

"This accomplishment has been made possible because of good management practices, and by keeping our commitments to improve prison conditions. We have added 1,100 new beds, transferred 1,200 inmates to the care of mainland facilities, and added 200 inmates to the drug treatment program. We have begun plans to build a new prison on the Big Island to hold 2,300 inmates," Governor Cayetano explained.

The state will no longer be under federal supervision as long as we keep present population levels, and obtain reaccreditation of health programs at the facility. Final dismissal of the federal court supervision of OCCC will follow an inspection by the court monitor scheduled for early February. Federal supervision will end because the federal court has approved an agreement between the state and the ACLU.

"This agreement is a tribute to the hard work of our past Public Safety Directors Keith Kaneshiro and George Iranon, the warden and staff of the OCCC, and many other Department of Public Safety administrators and staff members," said Attorney General Margery Bronster.


Tuesday, February 2, 1999 (Editorial from Honolulu Star-Bulletin)

Prison guard abuses must be corrected

Overcrowded facilities aren't the only problem of the Hawaii prison system. Abusive behavior by prison guards is another matter that should be of serious concern. It's a situation that has festered for years, under one prison superintendent after another.

Hearings held by the Senate Judiciary Committee uncovered disturbing testimony of a failure to discipline guards at the Halawa Correctional Facility after two inmates sued the state over mistreatment and won substantial financial settlements. Former inmates at the Women's Community Correctional Center told of drug use and sex between guards and inmates.

The new state prison chief, Ted Sakai, said he has told his wardens that abuse of inmates will not be tolerated and will be actively investigated. He told senators the Department of Public Safety is reviewing the policy on use of force. The department will provide retraining for every employee who has contact with inmates. The senators said they understood that most of the abuses at the women's prison occurred in past years and have been corrected. But they were concerned about the failure to discipline correctional officers in two 1995 cases in which inmates Ulysses Kim and Anthony DeGuzman received settlements of $199,000 and $210,000 respectively after suing the state. The senators said they were surprised to learn how long it takes to investigate complaints of abuse in the prison system.

Sen. Matt Matsunaga (D, Palolo) made the common-sense observation: "I would think that if you were a businessman and one of your employees has cost you $400,000, you'd want to certainly look into it and make sure it didn't happen again." Sakai conceded that "If the allegations which led to this inquiry are true, then we have a disfunctional operation and we are obligated to correct it." Achieving that goal will take dedication and sustained effort. An essential component will be swift and suitable punishment for those responsible.


January 26, 2000

There have been 18 suicides by prisoners in Hawaii this year. One inmate is giving testimony of being beaten while handcuffed and a stick rammed up his rectum. They have photographs showing the marks on him, which they showed on TV, and now they're investigating the abuse. Authorities when asked about the suicides said the guards need training and that the guards have stopped 11 suicides this year.

Inmate abuse in Hawaii's prisons has fallen sharply. Just three minor incidents in 1999, according to the state Public Safety Department But the history of some brutal beatings by guards, including one that allegedly killed an inmate, remains a major concern for state lawmakers. More than any other facility, Halawa prison has a long history of inmate abuse, drug trafficking and excessive overtime.

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai told worried senators, that's changing. "Generally, I believe that the department has been moving towards greater overall accountability," Sakai told the Senate Judiciary committee on Wednesday. Frequent shakedowns are slowing the flow of drugs. To reduce assaults against inmates the state's one 1,000 guards will soon undergo training on how to better communicate with inmates. "If the officers haven't been trained in communication, and if they have been trained in take down procedures, they're gonna resort to the take down procedures because that's what they know. And this is what I'm trying to get away from," Sakai said. Sakai says staff are now trained to handle inmates with mental illness. But it's too late for inmate Antonio Revera, who was found dead in his cell in April of 1998. Former guard Bryan Freitas is charged with manslaughter in the case. At the time, seven guards and two nurses watched as Freitas allegedly beat Revera in Halawa's medical unit. Revera had a history of mental illness.

This month, nearly two years later, three guards were fired and four suspended for failing to report what happened. The nurses resigned. Gary Rodrigues, head of the United Public Workers union, says the prison system is in the best shape its been in years, but admits when it comes to investigating guards who go bad, more needs to be done. "They take too long and it's outrageous. I think it's the one part that public safety has to improve." The department is also relying on a screening program to single out inmates that may be suicidal. Last year, eighteen inmates attempted suicide; seven inmates died, but eleven others were saved.

Mavis Lorraine .... Hawaii Correspondent


January 26, 2000




In his state of the state address Governor Cayetano insisted that a new prison in Hawaii must not be run by government workers. "If you want a prison in Hawaii then give me the authority to not only select a site but to fully privatize the operation and maintenance of that prison."

Rodrigues: "We disagree with the demand. I think he's basing it on nonsense without having the facts to support it. It'll tell all of the ACOs who are working now that you're not worth a damn; we don't want you running our new prison."

Rodrigues represents the state's 3-thousand adult corrections officers or ACOs, whom he says are not to blame for the high cost of operating prisons in Hawaii compared to the mainland. "The point is you cannot compare something on the mainland because the food may be cheaper; they'll be other conditions, but you cannot compare it to Hawaii." Rodrigues made his comments after a senate hearing on alleged brutality in the Halawa prison by corrections officers.

Public safety director Ted Sakai say newly appointed warden Nolan Espinda has made dramatic improvements. "The facility is now being managed by the warden's office and not by the inmates and not by the ACOs; it's being managed by the warden's office."

Senators say they are satisfied that prison brutality has been greatly reduced under Sakai's administration. But they are still concerned by the estimated 9 million dollars a year in prisons' overtime costs.



Lawmakers to consider privatizing Hawaii prisons... Rep. Garcia favors building a facility here with a focus on treatment for drugs

By Lori Tighe Honolulu Star-Bulletin

State legislators today were to begin discussing privatizing prisons in Hawaii with options such as hydroponic gardens or a drug treatment center. "The governor explicitly stated if you want a prison in the state you have to privatize it. I said fine," said House Public Safety Chairman Nestor Garcia (D, Waipahu). Garcia wants to keep the prison here in Hawaii and focus it on drug treatment. "I'm no longer interested in another Halawa (High/Medium Security Facility). I want to build a treatment center," Garcia said yesterday.

An estimated 80 percent of Hawaii prisoners have a substance abuse problem, according to state officials. Yet less than 10 percent receive drug treatment. "I want to stop the revolving door," Garcia said. He doesn't mean building "a Betty Ford treatment center or a resort," he said, but rather a prison that has a primary goal to treat substance abuse, similar to several mainland prisons. Garcia said the state must resolve overcrowding problem in the prisons. The contract with mainland prisons ends in a year and a half. The governor's argument to send more Hawaii inmates to the mainland centers on cost, Garcia said. It costs $42 a day to care for a prisoner on the mainland, compared to $100 a day in Hawaii.

"It's not just a dollars and cents argument. If you can break the cycle, you win in the long run," Garcia said. The last murder-suicide in Ewa Beach and suicide in Nanakuli involved people with drug problems, Garcia added. "I'd like to think we can win over support for it," he said. "It's not strictly a criminal issue. It's a public health issue."

Sam Monet, owner of Greenhouse USA in Honolulu, wants to build a hydroponic greenhouse next to a privately run Hawaii prison. Prisoners can learn a skill and market a product to help pay victim restitution. He was to present his idea to the committee at today's hearing. "The prisoners get out of their cells and work around plants and music. It's a positive reinforcement," Monet said. The prisoners learn how to make a hydroponic garden, one of the country's fastest growing agricultural markets. The farming technique grows vegetables, such as vine tomatoes, without soil. "I want to put an end to the cycle of prison, release, crime and prison again. Our system has an educational aspect." An inmate who works three years in the greenhouse leaves with a growers second-class certificate. An activist in native Hawaiian issues, Monet said native Hawaiians make up about 70 percent of the state's prison population, yet only 19 percent of the population. "If we're going to prison, we're going to be treated well, not like hell, and when we get out we want to have job skills."

Get involved--- You can track bills, hearings and other Legislature action via:

The Legislative Reference Bureau's public access room, state Capitol, room 401. Open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday to Friday, and 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday. Phone: 587-0478; fax, 587-0793; TTY, 538-9670. Neighbor islanders, call toll-free and enter ext. 70478 after the number: Big Island, 974-4000; Maui, 984-2400; Kauai, 274-3141; Molokai and Lanai, 468-4644.

The state's daily Internet listing of hearings: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov

The Legislature's automated bill report service: 586-7000.

The state's general Web page: http://www.state.hi.us


Land Donated For New Prison Site

Thursday, March 30, 2000 - 03:55 AM ET (KGMB)

The owner of King's Landing on the Big Island says she'll donate land to the state to put a private prison on the site. Sheila Watumull said she is willing to donate up to 200 acres for the prison site if the state will help put some infrastructure in the area.

Watumull Attorney Gunner Schull said the land is a "isolated, rather remote piece of property even though it's close to the Hilo Airport." He said roads and utilities are non-existent. Watumull said, "I'd like to see the infrastructure at the property so we could eventually do something."

Watumull and Schull met with leaders of the State House of Representatives for about an hour. House lawmakers have already recommended the King's landing site, though they were unsure it was feasible until their meeting with Watumull.

House Public Safety Chairman Nestor Garcia (D, Waipahu) said he would like to see a 1,700-bed facility put on the site. He said the facility would put an emphasis on drug rehabilitation and treatment. Senate Judiciary Co-Chairman Avery Chumbley (D, W. Maui) said while he does not object to the plan, it is unlikely the Senate will write it into the bill. He said he did not want to back the state into a corner by specifying a site.

By:Garett Kamemoto

This all looks on the up and up doesn`t it? Yet, Centex sent construction scouts there months ago, so confident were they of it being a done deal. (Centex is the biggest prison builder in the US)


Cayetano slaps down state-run prison

He says: 'They are going to have to wait a couple of years for a new governor."

By Richard Borreca -- Honolulu Star-Bulletin

If the Legislature doesn't want the new state prison to be privately built and operated, they had better find some other governor to sign the bill because Gov. Ben Cayetano says he won't do it. "I cannot support a prison that is run by the state," he told reporters yesterday. "They will have to find some other governor to run this prison, if it is going to be a state-run prison."

Cayetano was reacting to the latest round of confusion in the Legislature about building a new prison. First, the state House endorsed a privately operated prison, but that was removed by Rep. Dwight Takamine, finance chairman. House Speaker Calvin Say explained that the proposal was mistakenly deleted. The House wants the prison built on a privately owned, isolated spot near Hilo on the Big Island. The state Senate wants to authorize a privately run prison and it hasn't said where it should be built.

The Senate also took the $6 million out of the budget that Cayetano had earmarked for the prison, saying it wasn't going to be spent in the next year. Cayetano, however, insists that he will not approve another state-run prison because civil service laws and problems with prison staffing make it twice as expensive to run a state facility.

At the beginning of the year, Cayetano wanted the Legislature to approve a privately run mainland prison and even had some possible sites under consideration, but the Legislature refused to go along. "If they are going to pass it (a state-run prison) they are going to have to wait a couple of years for a new governor, because I won't do it," said Cayetano who will be in office until 2002.

That sort of a delay would not displease Sen. Andy Levin, co-chairman of the Ways and Means Committee, who says the Big Island is not in agreement that a prison should be built there. "For me it can be put off forever. At almost every site there is substantial opposition," he said. "Although the business community would welcome it, they have not been able to win over the Hawaiian community."

Levin added that while there is support for building another prison on the Big Island, there is an equal amount of opposition. Sen. Carol Fukunaga, Ways and Means co-chairwoman, added that the issue can "be revisited."

Cayetano also charged that the Legislature was unable to move because of union pressure. "I don't think there is any question that the strong lobbying by the UPW is starting to have an effect on people, but we all get elected to do what is right and not just what is right for one interest group," Cayetano said.

The United Public Workers union, which represents the prison workers, has opposed the Cayetano administration's efforts to turn the prisons over to private groups.




Kim Murakawa reports: April 26 2000

Governor Cayetano today urged lawmakers to support full privatization of the proposed new state prison citing statistics showing prison guards average nearly 3 days a month or 36 days a year of sick leave. The governor says that leads to excessive overtime costs to cover those shifts. And he listed nearly 50 cases where prison guard or prison staff have been implicated in criminal cases. Governor Ben Cayetano: It's counterproductive at this particular point to foist on the state a state-run prison run by the same people.

The head of the union representing the prison guards says the governor is stooping to a low level to try to influence lawmakers. Gary Rodrigues, United Public Workers: The governor is using extreme measures to get his point across, which is ridiculous. And he's the top manager in the state so if the prisons is failing, he'd better give himself an F. Rodrigues says lawmakers should just authorize funding to get the prison built and wait to decide how it will be operated, but that doesn't appear likely.

Leaders in both houses say they are inclined to support some form of privatization for the prison. Calvin Say, House Speaker (D): We're still moving ahead with a form of some privatization for the prison, both construction and for operations. One option would allow for managed competition, where the unions would be allowed to bid for an operations contract alongside private companies.

Kim Murakawa, Channel Two News, State Capitol.


UPDATE: APRIL 29, 2000

Public employee unions will compete with private operators to run the facility By Richard Borreca, Honolulu Star-Bulletin

Public labor unions proved a strong but not omnipotent force as the Legislature cleared the decks of the final pieces of legislation just before midnight last night. The last item to be resolved was a new state prison. Legislators, after consulting with Gary Rodrigues, United Public Workers head, agreed to building a prison within the state with both private operators and the public employee unions given a chance to compete to operate the facility.

The action came after Gov. Ben Cayetano had repeatedly threatened to spike any prison built and run by the state. "I'll veto the prison. If they override my veto, I won't build the prison," Cayetano said.

The prison bill, like the others agreed upon last night in conference committee, must be approved by the full House and Senate Tuesday before being signed into law by Cayetano. The Legislature found an equally resolute union lobbying force as they tried to approve Cayetano civil service reforms. House and Senate negotiators, Rep. Dwight Takamine and Sen. Bob Nakata, called the compromise a "landmark action in modernizing government operations."


June 15, 2000 Hawaii OK's Marijuana For Medicine

Hawaii has become the first state to use legislation to approve the possession and use of marijuana for medical purposes. While signing the bill into law on Wednesday, Gov. Ben Cayetano said it was one aspect of his effort to make Hawaii the health-care center of the Pacific. "I'm glad to see this bill before me," he said. "My own feeling is more states are going to come on."

Hawaii is the eighth state to decriminalize the use of medical marijuana, but the previous seven states did so through ballot measures. Under Hawaii's law, patients with certain qualifying illnesses must obtain a doctor's recommendation to use medical marijuana and must register with the state Department of Public Safety to avoid criminal prosecution under state law. The department first must formulate and implement rules to govern the registration process, a process that Donald Topping of the advocacy group Drug Policy Forum estimated could take up to two months. "It will allow patients who have been using marijuana to do so without fear or prosecution," Topping said. "There are a number of people who would like to use it but have hesitated because of the illegality of it."

There are between 500 and 1,000 people in Hawaii who will be eligible to use medical marijuana, although the exact number is hard to discern because some people keep quiet about their use, Topping said. Topping and others agreed with Cayetano's prediction that the Hawaii law will lead to similar legislation in other states. "This may set an example for other states, give them the courage to proceed," Topping said. "I think the fear of being soft on drugs is beginning to fade now with this kind of legislation being passed. "I see other states following suit in the near future."

People who are stopped by police and found to be possessing marijuana will have to prove they are exempt from the state's criminal laws governing marijuana. Those laws remain in effect for all citizens not registered with the department.

The Rev. Dennis Shields of the Religion of Jesus Church, which uses marijuana as a sacrament, said his effort to win passage of a medical marijuana law resulted from the death of his son, Ryan, from cancer in 1991. "I think he would be happy," said Shields. "For him right now, going through his struggle, he would have the opportunity not to feel the guilt some people put on him. "When you're throwing up uncontrollably, with 100 stitches in your gut that are fresh, you don't care about getting high, you care about stopping throwing up."

Voters in Alaska, Washington, California, Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, Maine and the District of Columbia have approved medical marijuana laws. The Justice Department is challenging those laws.



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