EXCLUSIVE: 5 OCCC guards accused of smuggling drugs, other contraband to inmates
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Five corrections officers -- including two supervisors -- are accused of smuggling drugs and other contraband to inmates at Oahu Community Correctional Center, the state's largest jail, sources told Hawaii News Now.
The state has struggled for more than two years to toughen the contraband search policy for prison employees.
Sources said two OCCC sergeants and three other guards were initially suspended without pay after some of them were caught on video giving drugs, cigarettes, cell phones and other contraband to inmates here this fall.
The five accused guards have returned to the payroll after 30 days without pay and are now working at other prison facilities pending the outcome of an internal investigation, sources said.
Earlier this year, former Halawa prison guard Feso Malufau was sentenced to eight years in federal prison for taking bribes to smuggle drugs and cigarettes to inmate gang members.
Halawa Prison Warden Francis Sequeira said prison employees are subject to a search of their bags when they enter facilities statewide.
"Any bags that come in, they know they can't bring in the big athletic bags, duffel bags, things of that nature. It goes through a security check in the lobby, they got to open it up. A lot of them come in with nothing," Sequeira said.
But employees are not routinely patted down and do not go through screening machines that check for drugs, phones or other types of contraband.
"If we have reasonable suspicion, we can check the staff. We can pat them down," Sequeira said.
For more than two years, the state has been in consultation with the United Public Workers, the union that represents corrections officers, to strengthen the search policy.
"Talks have been very positive and productive. We believe the collaboration is heading in a mutually agreeable direction but it would be premature to release specifics until an agreement is finalized," said Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda in a statement.
A source said the state is "very close" to a deal with the union on searches. Asked why it's taken so much time to work out a new policy, the source said it's a "complex issue."
Sequeira, from Halawa, said "When we get there and the union consultation is over, I think it's going to be definitely beneficial for us. And a lot of jurisdictions do that, it's just not something the Hawaii jurisdiction has done."
Behind bars, a pack of cigarettes can be sold on the black market for $200 to $500, sources said.
Sequeira said some corrections officers might be tempted to smuggle items in for inmates.
"I mean the money's good. They can do that and take that chance. But I think there's a lot more peer pressure and family pressures, both within and the outside, 'Don't get involved in that, it's not worth it,' Sequiera said.
"Entrusting yourself with an inmate is very precarious. When the inmate has the opportunity, he'll throw you under the bus very quickly," Sequeira said he tells prison employees.
Click here for photos inside OCCC.
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