Man accepts 5-years in prison to get away from jail

Conditions in MCCC ‘out of control,’ he says

WAILUKU — Describing “out of control” conditions at the Maui Community Correctional Center, an inmate said he was hoping to be sent to an Oahu facility after being resentenced Wednesday to a five-year prison term.

“MCCC is out of control now,” said Kaleo Kuahuia, 28, who was among pretrial inmates housed in a module where a disturbance started Monday afternoon.

After 42 inmates refused to leave a common area to return to their cells when recreational time was over at about 3 p.m. Monday, inmates broke fire sprinklers and started a small fire, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

The smoke drifted to an adjacent module, where inmates started a lesser disturbance, before the situation was declared contained shortly before 6:30 p.m., according to the department.

One module was unusable because of extensive damage, and inmates from that module were being rehoused in other areas of the jail, the department said Tuesday.

In court Wednesday, Kuahuia said he and other inmates hadn’t been rehoused.

“We still stay Module B,” he said. “No more toilets, no more sinks.”

Kuahuia, who had been placed on four years’ probation in October in a stolen-car case, was jailed after being arrested in December on a warrant alleging he had violated conditions of his probation.

On Wednesday, he admitted he had failed to comply with terms of his probation, including by not reporting to his probation officer, using drugs and not participating in drug treatment.

Deputy Public Defender Zach Raidmae said Kuahuia decided to admit to the violations and be sentenced in part because of “terrible” conditions at the jail. Another factor was the time it would take for him to try to be admitted into the Maui Drug Court program of treatment and supervision for nonviolent offenders, Raidmae said.

“MCCC is the worst jail,” Kuahuia said. “We all hoping to go Halawa or go to the feds.” He was referring to Halawa Correctional Facility and the Federal Detention Center, both on Oahu.

Apparently referring to the disturbance at the jail Monday, Kuahuia said, “That’s why they did that.”

“They’re letting guys get a pounding out in there,” he said. “Nobody got medical attention. Get guys in there with broken jaws, get guys in there bleeding. And I think you guys should all know that.”

No inmate injuries were reported in the disturbance, according to the Department of Public Safety. Three staff members were treated for minor injuries, including an injured finger, a cut to a foot from shattered glass and skin irritation from pepper spray exposure, according to the department.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said the disturbance remains under investigation, both internally by the department and criminally by the Maui Police Department.

“There is nothing more we can say at this time,” she said in an email Wednesday.

Someone who was at the jail during the disturbance said inmates were upset over longstanding issues, including the lack of phones to call out, sporadic mail delivery and minimal food.

Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda told reporters on Tuesday that the investigations into the disturbance will determine the ultimate reason inmates did what they did, but the conditions related to overcrowding likely are the source of the disturbance.

He said the department has regularly expressed “our deep concerns for the admitted overcrowded conditions in our jails across the state.”

Until there is additional bed space in jails statewide, the department “will continue to do all in its power and capability to continue to operate safe, secure, clean and constitutionally compliant facilities across the state,” Espinda said.

As of May 31, MCCC housed 469 inmates, which was 56 percent more than its operational capacity of 301 beds, according to an assessment prepared for the department.

To address “severe and persistent overcrowding,” the department has proposed developing new medium security housing units for up to 80 inmates at the Wailuku jail.

In court Wednesday, 2nd Circuit Judge Rhonda Loo revoked Kuahuia’s probation and resentenced him to a five-year prison term for unauthorized control of a propelled vehicle.

She set a July 10 change-of-plea date for Kuahuia in another case where he is charged with habitual property crime and fourth-degree theft.

Because Kuahuia has been sentenced to prison in one of his cases, he could be moved from MCCC to another facility, Raidmae said.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.

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