KALIHI, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Oahu Community Correctional Center employees said Thursday prison managers were "well aware" that the roof area where inmate Daniel Skelton made his escape Monday was vulnerable to escapes, since other inmates had gone through a hole in the roof there before.
Sources said the Kalihi prison's surveillance video shows Skelton on the roof of OCCC's Annex One a little after 11 p.m. Sunday, more than six hours before he was discovered missing around 6 a.m. Monday. He wasn't discovered missing in spite of two head counts during that period, sources said.
Ted Sakai, the Department of Public Safety director who oversees state prisons, would not go into details about the investigation into what happened.
"The reason we do the investigation is so we can get a full and complete and accurate picture of what happened. And all of this is going to be part of the investigation, and that's why I don't want to comment on it," Sakai told reporters Wednesday.
OCCC staff said the restroom and shower area where Skelton crawled out of a hole onto the roof was a well-known escape "hot spot."
In fact, sources said the sergeant on duty the night of the escape had stopped another inmate from sneaking out of the same hole sometime in the last two years, and it had been patched and bolted closed by an inmate work crew under supervision of prison staff.
Sources said inmates have used the same hole to crawl onto the roof of the building and pick up contraband -- including drugs, cell phones, and cigarettes -- which people are able to throw onto the roof because the building is so close to the street.
During numerous shakedowns over the last two years, sources said guards have found prisoners' street clothes hidden in the rafters of Annex One, presumably for inmates to change into before escaping.
There was just one sergeant and one guard -- a recruit new to the job -- at the unit to watch 101 prisoners overnight when Skelton escaped.
Sources said that sergeant is known to sleep on the overnight shift because he frequently works several 16-hour shifts in a row, earning extra overtime.
The recruit conducts head counts but the sergeant on duty is responsible to ensure the count is correct, prison officials said.
Sources said the escapee was not discovered missing during a head count around 1:30 or 2 a.m. Monday or during another head count around 3:30 a.m. when the prisoners were served breakfast.
He wasn't discovered missing until around 6 a.m.
Staffers said they warned managers that these higher-level security prisoners would jump and run from the facility several years ago, so OCCC added an armed foot patrol corrections officer who patrols the grounds.
But at night when it's dark, it would be easy to hide and evade that one guard who covers a large area.
It's not clear how Skelton escaped OCCC grounds. Sources said he did not escape through an open perimeter gate. Prison officials previously said he did not climb over a 16-foot fence with a razor wire top to leave OCCC grounds. Some internal gates might have been left open, sources said, but they wouldn't have allowed him to get out of the facility.
There is no alarm system on OCCC's fence, which was installed decades ago, Sakai said.
A security consultant is coming to Hawaii next month to inspect the fencing at all prison facilities, something that was planned long before the escapes Monday, Sakai added.
Sakai said an investigation into the incident could take two to three months to complete.
"We want to be very careful about the evidence we gather. We want to make sure every possible witness is interviewed," Sakai said. "If any staff is found to be culpable, we need to give them a chance to tell their side of the story. They're entitled to a hearing if we decide to move forward with charges."
But staffers said management and the department shoulders a lot of the blame for putting higher-risk prisoners in a dorm-like facility that was built to house low-risk inmates on work furlough programs about to be released.