EXCLUSIVE: 3 Maui prison recruits fired after fight, stabbing

EXCLUSIVE: 3 Maui prison recruits fired after fight, stabbing
Published: Feb. 29, 2016 at 9:14 PM HST|Updated: Feb. 29, 2016 at 11:00 PM HST
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(Image: Hawaii News Now)
(Image: Hawaii News Now)

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Three prison guard recruits from Maui have been fired after they were involved in a fight that led to a stabbing during a night of partying at a Honolulu strip club.

The incident happened during the first week of the prison recruit class, officials said.

Sometime after midnight on the morning of Thursday, Feb. 4, two correctional officer recruits were stabbed, outside the Keeaumoku Domino's Pizza restaurant. One of them was stabbed in the cheek and stomach after getting into a fight with two men, officials said.

"That's really a pre-employment situation, people who were scheduled to be in our recruit class and it's under law enforcement and corrections investigation right now, so I'm not free to comment on that at this time," said Nolan Espinda, director of the state Public Safety Department, which oversees prisons.

The group of about a half dozen prison guard trainees from the neighbor islands told authorities that just before the stabbing, they had been drinking at Club 939, across the street from Dominoes.

Club 939 is a strip club that refers to itself as "Hawaii's premiere gentlemen's club."

The guard trainees claimed they were attacked without provocation by two men outside the club, leading to a fight in which the guard trainees were stabbed.

The state said three of them were terminated from the class because they were medically unable to continue training.

"People need to be in the class in order to complete it, if they were unable to be in the class, they probably have to take an opportunity in the future to try and try again.  But we can't have people missing an integral part of our training," Espinda said.

Asked if the three are fired and can never return to a future recruit class, Espinda said, "None of that is final until the investigation is complete."

Unlike Honolulu police officer recruits, who are probationary employees during their training process, prison guards have due-process rights even while they are trainees.

"Correctional officers have a 9-month probationary period compared to the normal six month initial probation period for regular employees. And during that process, they do have due-process rights, and everyone is offered those opportunities," Espinda said.

Taxpayers pay to house off-island guard recruits at the Pagoda Hotel, which is just a couple of blocks away from the strip club and the stabbing location.

The state said the current recruit class has lost five trainees for medical reasons, which is the same number of recruits terminated in the past four classes last year.  There were three recruits dropped for academic failure, one for medical reasons and one resigned to accept another job, according to state public safety department officials.

Graduation completion rates for the last five corrections officer classes averaged 94 percent, officials said.

Just three years ago, the state tried to boost the quality of its prison guards by requiring a written test for the first time.

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