Dept. of Public Safety investigating apparent suicide at OCCC - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Dept. of Public Safety investigating apparent suicide at OCCC

The Department of Public Safety is investigating the apparent suicide of a female inmate after she was found unresponsive in her cell at Oahu Community Correctional Center Saturday morning.  

It's the latest in a string of deaths that started in early March and state officials are calling the incidents unacceptable.

The inmate-- identified as 56-year-old Catherine Callahan-- was found hanging in her cell at 9:25 a.m. and was pronounced dead shortly after.

Guards discovered the victim during a routine inspection and officials say the facility was properly staffed.

"This inmate was in the female module of what we call general population," said Deputy Public Safety Director for Corrections Max Otani.  "She was not in special holding or in any type of suicide watch type of situation."
Officials said that Callahan was under suicide watch from May 2 to 7 before being returned to the general population.

The incident is the fifth death in Hawaii prisons since March 10th.

Inmate Mark Davis was discovered unresponsive in his cell a week and a half ago.

On April 29th, 22-year-old Ikaika Andrade hanged himself at OCCC. 

Three weeks prior Darius Puni-Mau killed himself at Halawa Correctional Facility.

State Senator Will Espero is calling for a review of security procedures within the prison system.

"Although you can't control what an inmate may do in the privacy of their cell 100%, obviously, we are failing somewhere," said Espero, who is also chair of the senate's Public Safety Committee. "These incidents are proving that we need to do a better job."

Otani says correctional officers are trained in suicide prevention, but he plans to hold a refresher course in light of the incidents.

"The correctional officers actually spend the whole day in the cells, in the housing units with the inmates," Otani said. "So having them interact with the mental health staff is also important."

Mental health issues may have played a part in the murder of inmate Cyril Chung two months ago.  Joseph Tui, his cell mate, was charged with the crime.  

Officials say they shouldn't have been together in the first place because of Tui's history of paranoid delusions and schizophrenia.

"I'd like to hear more from the wardens themselves because you've got an individual who basically is in charge of the whole prison and I think that's a good place to start and see where that leads to," Espero said.

Espero says he hasn't spoken with any of the prison officials recently, but he plans to meet with Director of Public Safety Ted Sakai sometime next week.

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