HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A former Oahu Community Correctional Center detainee told Hawaii News Now he saw correctional officers dealing drugs and sleeping on the job, allegations he took to top state prisons officials.
"And I personally witnessed drug dealings going on in there with guards to detainees or inmates," said the man who asked us to hide his identity because he fears retaliation from corrections officers and drug dealers.
He spent several months at OCCC three years ago awaiting trial on a theft charge and says he saw certain guards selling contraband of all types to prisoners, including cigarettes for $60 each, not per pack but per cigarette.
"What I have personally seen is I've seen ice (crystal methamphetamine) go through, cigarettes are a very hot commodity over there. Even things as simple as candy bars, cell phones, all sorts of things," the former inmate said.
Veteran OCCC guard Warren Ray Rivera, Jr. was arrested by federal authorities last month for selling crystal meth to an undercover DEA agent.
The former inmate said he saw Rivera dealing drugs with inmates three years ago, and "He was giving a cell phone to another detainee."
He also said some OCCC guards frequently slept on the job.
"You see the guard sleeping in the little guard cubicle in there and there's a camera that literally points right at the guard cubicle. So I don't understand why the warden or the sergeants, they don't understand the guards who are not pulling their weight and which ones are because it's blatantly known," the former inmate said.
The former inmate said because of understaffing there were often just two guards to keep track of nearly 70 inmates in his module. So he said the guards simply kept all cells locked for hours at a time.
"What they do is they elect to lock us all down, three men to a cell, in a very small cell for over ten hours. That's just unbelievable," he said.
He said some guards were very professional.
"There are some quality guards in there that actually did care about the safety and well-being of us. But there are also a fair share of individuals over there who are taking advantage of their position," the man said.
The man’s allegations have been echoed by employees at OCCC.
He took his complaints to State Sen. Will Espero, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee. Espero set up meetings for him with Ted Sakai, head of the prison system, as well as internal affairs officers.
"It looks like some of the things that he was talking about are true and have come to fruition in terms of catching some of these individuals who have been breaking the law or bringing in contraband," Espero said.
In a statement, Sakai, the state's public safety director, said, “We acknowledge that we have problems that have plagued our system for years. However, we have made a concerted effort to root out corrupt activities like drug dealing in our correctional facilities.”
“We have enlisted the assistance of our federal law enforcement partners, like the FBI and the DEA, and the County Police Departments,” Sakai said. “The fact that 17 inmates and about a half dozen staff have been arrested in the past year shows that our efforts are paying off. The investigations are on-going, and will continue until we are satisfied that this kind of corruption has been stamped out.”