Lawmaker calls for hearings on prison mishaps

Lawmaker calls for hearings on prison mishaps
Published: Mar. 11, 2013 at 9:52 PM HST|Updated: Mar. 12, 2013 at 12:45 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The 76-year-old Honolulu man who was beaten to death in a Kalihi prison yesterday had been locked up for more than two years while waiting his trial for theft.

Now, a state lawmaker is now launching Senate hearings into whether the Department of Public Safety is cable of keeping inmates like Cyril Chung safe.

State Sen. Will Espero, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs, said he wants to know how the elderly Chung ended up sharing a cell designed to hold just one person and how he wound up paired with Joseph Tui, who was twice Chung's size and less than half his age.

"The alleged murderer looks like he has a history of violence and unruly behavior so him being in a cell with any other inmate is a major question," Espero said.

"When you look at this weekend's incident and the incident that happened with the escape from a few weeks ago, I'm very concerned with what's happening at the Department of Public Safety."

The other incident Espero was referring to was escape of murder suspect Teddy Munet. Munet bolted from a prison van at state Circuit Court last month, which resulted in an 11-hour manhunt through downtown and lockdowns at a handful of Honolulu schools.

The Senate Public Safety Committee will likely hold hearings in the next three to five weeks. It will look at whether prison guards received adequate training and whether prison management has the proper procedures in place, Espero said.

The state says that overcrowding has been a problem for many years and may have been a factor in this weekend's incident."

Prison officials say OCCC houses nearly 1,200 prisoners but it only has enough beds for 950. That forces prison officials to place two -- and sometimes three prisoners -- in cells built to hold one.

"Ideally, it would be one per cell. We simply don't have enough cell space at this facility for that," said Ted Sakai, director of the state Public Safety Department

"The whole facility is overcrowded."

Prison officials are conducting their own investigation and a Honolulu Police probe is ongoing. As for Tui, he's expected to appear in District Court tomorrow morning for his arraignment.

Court records show that Tui initially was originally in custody on assault charges after he allegedly disrupted the filming of a Hawaii-Five-0 episode in July. He has an extensive criminal record that includes convictions for assault, burglary and sex assault.

Meanwhile, court records show that Chung has been in and our of jail for the past six decades. He most recently was placed behind bars in February 2011 when he tried to rob a Walmart money center.

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