Reaction to latest Halawa prison guard arrest - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Reaction to latest Halawa prison guard arrest

The latest arrest of a Halawa prison guard shows just how easy it is to smuggle drugs into Hawaii's maximum security prison, lawmakers and legal experts said.

Forty-five-year-old Mark Samson Damas was arrested Sunday morning as he showed up for work and federal prosecutors alleged that the Wahiawa man conspired to bring in more than five ounces of crystal methamphetamine into the prison.

He's the fourth Halawa guard in less than two years to be charged with smuggling contraband.

"The few guards who have been arrested are the tip of the iceberg," said attorney Myles Breiner.

"It's an epidemic. Anything you can purchase on the outside, you can purchase for the right amount of money on the inside."

State Sen. Will Espero, D-Waipahu, is calling for stricter standards when it comes to hiring and training of corrections officers and he's pushing for more funding for drug treatment for current inmates.

Espero said worried that many of the current prison workers aren't even searched when they show up for work.

Sources say that metal detectors and other security devices used to detect contraband at the prison haven't worked for years.

"I believe it's too easy for workers to bring contraband in and that happens often from what I hear from inmates and former inmates," Espero said.

According to court documents, Damas allegedly smuggled in about an ounce of crystal meth and a carton of cigarettes to the same prisoner on two different occasions last September.

Federal agents say he attempted to bring in a third shipment -- for about 13 grams -- but that delivery was intercepted by the FBI when they searched his car.

And that didn't stop him from attempting a fourth shipment but that again was seized by the FBI, federal agents said.

"It's just unfortunate that there are some that are so stupid that they would risk themselves, and jobs and risk the prisoners that they're watching and risk the public," Espero said.

Damas's arrest comes two weeks after FBI agents indicted fellow prison guard James "Kimo" Sanders on similar charges.

It's all part of a crackdown on prison corruption and sources say they expect more arrests in the coming months.

"When there are allegations of corruption out there, the Department of Public Safety and the FBI are going to team up to make sure we can root those people out," said FBI spokesman Tom Simon.

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