Lawmakers question public safety director on recent escapes, inmate death

Lawmakers question public safety director on recent escapes, inmate death

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state's person in charge of prisons told lawmakers that changes have been made in procedures after the recent escape of a murder suspect who was being transported to court for a hearing.

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai faced questions from state senators about the incident as well as other recent embarrassments at the department.

Sakai did not get the grilling that some expected from the senate's Public Safety Committee at the State Capitol. But while the mood was generally friendly, committee members did ask for updates on how the department plans to keep such incidents from happening again.

The public safety department has been under scrutiny because of those incidents, including the high-profile escape of OCCC inmate Teddy Munet, who broke free from officers at the courthouse.

Sakai told the panel that some procedures and policies were not followed. For example, policy requires inmates to wear handcuffs, belly chains and leg irons when they are being transported. Munet was not wearing leg irons at the time of his escape. Why he wasn't wearing them is still being investigated, Sakai said.

Sakai also told the committee that officers went through a refresher course on procedures immediately after the escape, and that the training will be conducted on a more regular basis. "Officers sign up for the post they want to work on. They choose where they want to work. And this happens every 12 weeks. So every 12 weeks we will go over procedures with the transportation unit," he said.

Sakai was also questioned about another incident in March, in which inmate Joseph Tui allegedly murdered his cell mate at OCCC. Sakai was counseled by a deputy attorney general not to answer specific questions about the case because it remains under investigation. However, Sakai said that there are plans to install cameras in the holding cell area where the incident occurred.

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