Prison visitation rules tighten after increase in illegal activity

Breaking the law behind bars is a growing problem inside some of Hawaii’s jails and prisons.

Ted Sakai, director of the Dept. of Public Safety, says more criminals are getting their hands on contraband items.

“We’ve seen an increase in recent months,” Sakai said. “Drugs, cigarettes, cell phones, spice, which is a type of synthetic drug.”

The state is looking to tackle the problem by changing the visitation rules at Halawa Correctional Facility. Soon, inmates will no longer be able to have physical contact with their visitors.

The non-contact visitor room being built at Halawa will have one-on-one cubicles with phones, so visitors can talk to and see the inmates without physical contact.

“It hurts, because I won’t be able to touch him,” said Darilyn Germano-Tanaka, wife of a Halawa inmate. “I won’t be able to feel him and that’s something that we need as families.”

It’s not just a problem at Halawa. Sakai says visitors have also brought contraband into Oahu Community Correctional Center.

“We’ve had at least two instances in the past month and a half of drugs coming in through visitors and we’ve got to address that,” he said. “Right now, we’re addressing it through just making more thorough searches.”

For security reasons, state officials cannot reveal how they’re doing that, but right now, employees are expected to search visitors’ bags and pat them down. As for the non-contact visitation room, the facilities at Halawa and Maui will be the only ones in the state to include them.

When asked if the policy would be implemented in other facilities, Sakai said, “Every jail is built differently and we’re going to have to find a place to do it.”

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