EXCLUSIVE: Prison corruption crackdown could lead to more arrests

Published: Jan. 21, 2014 at 12:29 AM HST|Updated: Jan. 21, 2014 at 1:22 AM HST
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The crack down on corruption at Halawa prison will likely mean more arrests.

Hawaii News Now has learned that up to a dozen workers at the state's maximum security prison are being targeted.

That comes on the heels of the recent arrest of prison guard James Sanders, who is accused of smuggling in crystal meth to prisoners.

Prison officials confirm that they are working closely with the FBI and the Honolulu Police to weed out corruption.

It's all part of an investigation that began more than a year ago when the prisons chief Ted Sakai was forced to deal with a series of embarrassing security lapses.

We have now learned that the investigation to netted last week's indictment of Sanders was partly triggered by the 2012 arrest of a fellow guard.

That guard, John Joseph Kalei Hall, admitted to smuggling cigarettes to members of the USO prison gang.

Another longtime guard, Feso Malufau, faces charges of distributing marijuana and crystal meth to USO members.

Prison reform advocates blame the problem on underfunding and prison overcrowding.

"The prison system here is a mess," said attorney Eric Seitz, who has sued prison officials about two dozen times on behalf of prisoners and guards.

"You just have a whole situation here that is crumbling and in the midst of that people are going to do and get away with things that are going to make it much worse."

State officials are well aware of those issues and are in the third year of a long-term reform program. But it may be years before improvements come.

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