EXCLUSIVE: Prison administrator accused of improper inmate contact quits

EXCLUSIVE: Prison administrator accused of improper inmate contact quits

BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - An administrator at Kulani Correctional Facility on The Big Island quit last week after being accused of having improper contact with male inmates, sources told Hawaii News Now.

Gordlynn Surigao worked as a corrections supervisor for the last year and three months at Kulani prison, overseeing the offender services office and four social workers.  She was in charge of all prisoners' programming there, from education to substance abuse programs.

Surigao was also what's called the prison rape elimination act instructor at the facility, meaning she trained people to reduce sexual assaults there.

Sources said she resigned June 30 and was under investigation for having improperly close relationships with male prisoners.

A complaint filed against Surigao by another supervisor in April said she should be removed from Kulani, because she spent hours alone with one male inmate in her office, a source said.  The complaint said Surigao was adamant about not having a prison guard escort near her office while she was with that inmate, even though the warden had required guards to maintain visual contact with inmates while they met with prison social workers, a source said.

'Because Surigao was fraternizing with said inmate she should be removed from her position pending investigation for the safety and security of Kulani Correctional Facility and all concerned," the complaint said, according to a source.

University of Hawaii Criminologist Meda Chesney-Lind said this type of behavior can be various dangerous in a prison environment.

"People who are engaged in improper and illegal behavior can be kind of coerced into doing other things that could jeopardize their co-workers, and that's exactly what happened in New York," said Chesney-Lind, an expert on women and crime who chairs the UH Manoa Womens Studies Department.

Chesney-Lind was referring to the woman prison employee who authorities say had an improper relationship with the two convicted murderers who she helped to escape from a prison in Upstate New York last month.

In the Kulani case, Surigao is accused of delaying the transfer to another prison of one inmate with whom she had a close relationship, and sources said prison officials found a love letter during a routine strip search she allegedly wrote to the man.

"… it has been requested that I fly you three out tomorrow morning, however you know I'm still doing whatever I can to change that …"  Surigao is alleged to have written in the note. "… I made sure that the paperwork is not ready."

The complaint also alleged she might have been giving the inmate confidential write ups and investigations about himself that prisoners should not see.

Sources said Surigao was notified of the investigation on June 10 and packed up her belongings and quit on June 30.

The state Public Safety department, which runs the prisons, said it cannot comment on the case because there's an ongoing investigation.

Sources said prisons officials are investigating whether she had a sexual relationship with prisoners.

State law makes it a felony for a prison employee to have any kind of sexual penetration with someone in custody, which would amount to second-degree sex assault.

Surigao's LinkedIn account said she previously spent more than 15 years as an adult probation officer at the state Judiciary before starting work at Kulani in April of 2014.

Her prison job paid her between $4,447 and $6,583 a month, prison officials said.

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