Officials Visit Hawaii Inmates in Arizona

Bryan Collins
Bryan Collins
Tommy Johnson
Tommy Johnson
Daren Swenson
Daren Swenson

By JD Wallace

ELOY, Arizona (KHNL) - The new Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona recently had a group of visitors, including Hawaii legislators, looking into concerns regarding the Hawaii inmates.

The problems run the gamut from managers quitting, to corrections officers leaving security doors open.

About four months ago Hawaii inmates came through these gates at Saguaro Correctional Center.  Now a group of state senators and inmate advocates are here to see how things are run.

A chance to kick the tires on a new prison, a group of special visitors from Hawaii in with almost 1400 inmates.

"Who are you?" asks one inmate.

"Ewa Beach. I'm a state senator" says state senator Willie Espero.

Lunchtime let some inmates tell their concerns, like how little they see their families.

"...because we can never see them.  The facilities are telling us, no, you guys can't see your families, basically' says inmate Bryan Collins.

The Hawaii Department of Public Safety knows about those challenges.

"We set up video systems through some churches in the state of Hawaii, that set up video visitation on Saturdays, we're expanding that from four locations to ten" says Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director of Corrections.

Senators now have some firsthand knowledge and concerns.

"I'd like to see what type of training is available and where they are and what type of plan they have for their hires, because many of the hires are new hires" says Espero.

"The mixture that we have of experienced staff and new staff is a good mix.  We're not in a situation where the majority of the staff are new. We've got a good mixture of that so we're in a good position right now" says warden Daren Swenson.

Because some of these men will be back in the community.

"It's the people who are fighting to get us out. Those are the people who are gonna keep us out, but if we can't have visits with our families, with our kids, what good is there in that?" says Collins.

Corrections Corporation of America is still transferring inmates to Saguaro from the Red Rock Center.  The group's expected over there tomorrow.