KAILUA, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - An investigation is underway after a visitor was able to walk into an unsecured module at the Women's Community Corrections Center over the weekend and beat up two inmates, sources said.
This is the latest problem at the Kailua women's facility, where four guards are already under investigation for allegedly having sex with four inmates.
People who work at the women's prison said the warden is under pressure to run weekend visitations, even without adequate staffing, and that's happening at the cost of the safety and inmates and employees. Prison officials denied that charge.
Here's what sources said happened Sunday morning while visitors were allowed into the women's prison: A former inmate who got out last September was visiting a current inmate. A guard had gone on a smoke break, leaving two dorms in the Kaala unit unsupervised with their doors jammed open, sources said.
That's when the visitor went into a dorm and began beating up one inmate and then, sources said, inmates pulled them apart and the visitor began fighting with a second inmate, this time in front of families with kids who were inside the facility to visit their loved ones.
There were no guards around to intercede, sources said.
"It's stunning," said Kat Brady, coordinator of Community Alliance on Prisons, an advocacy group for inmates.
"When I spoke to you and you said that somebody walked right into the units, I was like, how does that happen?" Brady said.
The incidents happened in a unit being supervised by a sergeant who'd been transferred to the women's prison from Oahu Community Correctional Center after he was accused of smuggling drugs and other contraband to male inmates there, sources said.
Prison employees said the incident is indicative of lax management at the women's prison.
State Sen. Will Espero, vice chairman of the Senate Public Safety Committee, said the episode is very concerning.
"It makes you wonder what's going on behind these closed doors and behind prison bars and if there's some leadership issues within our prisons and with the wardens, we need to address those as well," he said.
In a statement, prisons officials said: "The facilities will realign staffing in order to run safe and secure visitation. The Women's Community Correctional Center was adequately staffed to hold visits this weekend.
"We take all allegations seriously and will conduct thorough investigations. If staff are found to be culpable of wrongdoing we will act with appropriate disciplinary action."
Meanwhile, staffers also say that there are so few women guards and so many staff shortages that sometimes male guards are used in what are supposed to be female-only guard posts with direct views of the showers and toilet areas.
Attorney Myles Breiner represents four women inmates who claim they were coerced into sex with four guards in exchange for snacks, candy and special treatment. "The danger is that it ends up creating a hostile environment where the girls don't feel safe. And it encourages the male guards to enter into illicit relationships with the girls," Breiner said.
Prisons officials said there are a lot fewer women guards than men, and they only use male guards in those female-restricted positions when they can't find women to stay late or come in on overtime to fill those spots.