HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The recent escape of an OCCC prisoner on work furlough has shined a harsh spotlight on how prisoners become eligible for the program.
Allan Abihai, who was convicted of sex assault and attempted murder, walked away from the furlough program on June 10 and has been in hiding ever since.
It's the second time that Abihai has gone AWOL. In 2006, he walked away from the Laumaka work furlough center but was able to avoid a conviction for escape because the state took too long to indict him.
"Everything that should have taken three weeks to investigate took three years and that's not allowed," his former attorney Marcus Landsberg recalled.
"They arrested him at his family's house. He was mowing the lawn when they rolled up to the door."
This is what state prison's chief Ted Sakai said when asked about how Abihai qualified for the program even after his first escape attempt.
"The parole board is the body that makes decisions if they should get an opportunity in the community again. And the parole board deemed it yes, we should give him a chance," Sakai said.
But attorney Myles Breiner said Sakai is off base.
"If Ted Sakai is taking the position that it is up to the Hawaii Paroling Authority to give access to furlough, that's absolutely incorrect," he said.
"Furlough is under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Department of Public Safety."
Breiner represents inmate John Freudenberg, the so-called "Manoa rapist" who committed a series of brutal sex crimes more than three decades ago.
But since his minimum sentence ended in 1996, the parole board has recommended placing Freudenberg in a work furlough program when his parole came up. But each time, the DPS rejected that request, sending Freudenberg back to prison.
Freudenberg recently sued Sakai and the DPS in federal court.
"What's happened the past 18 consecutive years is that Mr. Freudenberg has been summarily rejected from entering into any program that will allow him to transition into the community," Breiner said.