HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - People who saw accused murderer Teddy Munet escape from circuit court Wednesday said the two prison guards who went after him were overweight and unfit, raising questions about why guards don't have recurring fitness requirements.
One witness said the two guards had large stomachs, one of them so big it looked like it belonged to a pregnant woman.
Before they are hired, prison guards must pass a physical fitness test that requires them to complete a mile and a half run in 15 minutes. They also must finish an obstacle course within two minutes to test their stamina. But they have no recurring physical fitness requirements once they're on the job.
"I don't know why this occurred, but apparently we haven't had these requirements for a number of years now," said Ted Sakai, director of the state Public Safety Department.
Prison sources estimate about 40 percent of adult corrections officers are overweight.
Sources said prison officials order some huge guard uniforms, with shirt sizes much larger than double or triple X. Instead, they go up to 5X, 6X, 7X, and even 8X, a source said.
And some guards' uniform pants can be as large as 50, 60 and even 70 inches in the waist, a source said.
Thursday, Sakai said he plans ask for physical fitness requirements for guards.
"It's something that I definitely need to talk to the Department of Human Resources and with the unions about," Sakai said.
The United Public Workers Union represents 1,200 guards across the state.
"I do not know the details of this week's incident, but UPW has always made safety both for the public and our members a top priority," said
Dayton Nakanelua, UPW's state director, in a statement. "We are willing to work collectively with all parties to assure that public safety is not compromised."
One idea being considered is to require a physical fitness test for those guards who work in the transportation unit, escorting prisoners to court, medical appointments and elsewhere in the community, away from prison grounds.
The state Human Resources Development department sets the requirements and would have to change them, according to a Public Safety Department spokeswoman.
"Director Sakai has been proactively involved in fixing this issue and has already sent a written request to DHRD to help us begin the process of making a change. DHRD and PSD would also have to consult and negotiate with the union to have it changed," according to a written statement by Public Safety Department spokeswoman Toni Schwartz.
The two guards who were assigned to Munet's van have been removed from transportation duty while an internal investigation is under way into his escape. The guards have been re-assigned to other duties at Oahu Community Correctional Center, Schwartz said.