Long-time corrections officer outlines ongoing problems at OCCC

More startling revelations about the escape by Daniel Skelton, the inmate from Oahu Community Correctional Center who was captured two days later.

Some improvements have been made in terms of security. A new fence was built for stricter access to the main parking lot.

The gate that’s usually left open, which allegedly allowed Skelton to walk through, is now locked.

KHON2 spoke with a long-time adult corrections officer who asked us to disguise his voice and appearance.

He says things just aren’t getting fixed and so security measures at OCCC have become almost a joke.

“Lights aren’t working. Toilets aren’t flushing. It’s a joke, it really is,” he said. “For those of us who work in the environment, we just laugh about it and go on.”

It’s hard to imagine just how bad things have gotten, but our source says it’s almost impossible for ACOs to do their job.

When asked about security issues at OCCC, Gov. Neil Abercrombie said officials are doing all they can to prevent more escapes, and that includes thinking of ways to make Hawaii’s jails and prisons “escape-proof.” He also said OCC is too overcrowded.

“Overcrowding and location. If an escape takes place and obviously we don’t want that to happen, but as I say periodically, over the years, it has happened over the years on occasion,” he said.

Abercrombie says officials are looking at modernizing OCCC to decrease the likelihood of an escape, but did not go into detail.
But there are new details Friday that further explain why it was so easy for Skelton to get away.

He says the hole that Skelton climbed out of is practically a revolving door of sorts for inmates, where they go in and out so they can get cigarettes and other contraband.

He says inmates have been caught and guards have filed reports to have it fixed, but nothing has been done.

“That’s how they get in and out of the building, through that hole — the very same hole that should have been closed six or eight months ago,” he said.

He also says Skelton escaped Sunday night, not Monday morning.

The lights that used to be near the fence on the Ewa side of the prison were taken away, he says, so even guards posted at the towers or near the gate that would normally see him getting out may not have been able to because it’s so dark in that area.

“I don’t know what happened to (the lights). I can’t account for that and I know they’ve been told that we need lights back there,” he said. “It would have been a lot easier, yes, very easy to see shadows, see somebody moving.”

He said the biggest problem is there’s never enough money in the budget, and that department heads don’t ask for more money because that makes the department look better.

In the meantime, he says they’re also extremely short-staffed with guards sometimes working three 16-hour shifts. So yes, he admits, sometimes they do fall asleep on the job.

“You work back-to-back three 16-hour shifts in a row, there’s just no way you can keep your eyes open. I rarely work two in a row, I hate it,” he said.

The Dept. of Public Safety has yet to comment because Skelton’s escape is an ongoing investigation.

However, state Sen. Will Espero, chair of the public safety committee, says in light of these new details, he plans to take a closer look at the security problems at OCCC.

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