HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A teenage boy charged as an adult with murdering his foster mother will be held at a facility with other youth for months, raising questions about the safety of the other kids behind bars there.
In late October, a Family Court judge waived jurisdiction over 16-year-old Ka'ano'i Kipapa, allowing him to be tried as an adult for the murder of his foster mother in their Waimanalo home last summer.
"Legally he could be tried as an adult," said Ted Sakai, the state public safety director. "Under certain aspects of the federal law, he was still considered a juvenile. So we had to treat him as a juvenile when he was incarcerated."
Kipapa spent 11 days at Oahu Community Correctional Center, where prison officials kept him completely separated from adult prisoners, as required by federal law.
"It wasn't good for him as an individual to be totally isolated from everybody else," said Sakai, who added that the boy was not allowed to hear or see any adult inmates at OCCC, because of federal law. Hallways, corridors and vehicles needed to be cleared of any adult inmates when he was transported around OCCC or to and from the facility, Sakai said.
His public defender originally asked a judge to transfer him from OCCC to the youth correctional facility in Kailua.
But then his lawyer asked to have him sent to the newer Youth Detention Facility in Kapolei, which was built just a few years ago. A judge approved that move.
Prison officials supported his transfer out of the adult system.
"As you know, OCCC is still quite overcrowded, so we have very little flexibility if we carve out an area just for one inmate, it means the other areas are going to get even more overcrowded," Sakai said.
Now Kipapa is living at the Kapolei youth facility with a group of about ten other boys where employees have raised concerns about the danger of keeping a teen accused of murder with other boys.
"All precautions necessary have been taken to ensure he, the rest of the juvenile population, and staff are safe," said state Judiciary spokeswoman Tammy Mori in a statement.
"Kipapa is receiving educational and self-services as he awaits trial," she said.
She said Kipapa is not allowed in wood shop, as a precaution.
Sources said the boy has been involved in confrontations with other boys at the Kapolei facility, but so far there have been no violent fights.
It's the first time in years that a child being tried as an adult has been allowed to mingle with other teens behind bars.
Kipapa has been unable to post $250,000 bail and he'll be waiting at the Youth Detention Facility for more than nine months, because Wednesday his trial was delayed from January until September.
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