The arrests of two Halawa correctional officers earlier this year for allegedly smuggling crystal methamphetamine into the prison pointed to a perhaps bigger issue: Whether drug use is rampant among ACO's?
KITV4 requested the number of prison guards randomly drug tested by the Department of Public Safety at Halawa as well as the Oahu Community Correctional Center in 2012 and 2013, and the results are encouraging.
"The numbers are drawn off a computer and the officers are told on the spot, you've got to go test right now," said DPS Director Ted Sakai. "It's a good test and I'm pleased to say that very few ACO's have been caught with anything in their system.
According to statistics provided by DPS, 136 of the 305 corrections officers at Halawa were randomly drug tested in 2012, or 44.5 percent of those who worked at the facility. The following year, nearly the same number of ACO's submitted to a random drug test, 137 out of the 307, or 44.6 percent. In both years, not one corrections officer tested positive for drugs.
Meanwhile, random drug testing of guards at the Oahu Community Correctional Center tallied even higher percentages. In 2012, 188 of the 375 ACO's working at the jail were randomly tested, or just over half. The following year, 178 ACO's submitted to random drug testing of the 370 on duty, or 48.1 percent. One OCCC guard tested positive for illegal drugs in 2012, and another three in 2013, just barely over 1 percent of those who were tested during the two-year period.
"It does appear they are getting a good number tested and hopefully they are rotating those and randomly choosing them so that everybody will get tested at one point or another over a year or two or three at the most," said Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Public Safety Committee.
Sakai said the arrests of two ACO's in January for allegedly bringing ice into the Halawa Correctional Facility over a period of several months appears to be tied to criminal activity outside the prison. James "Kimo" Sanders and Mark Damas were taken into custody within two weeks of each other by the FBI, but the cases do not appear to be directly linked. Both men were released from custody after posting bond, and are currently awaiting trial.
"We believe a lot of it is gang related and the gangs have a way of reaching their tentacles into the community. So, we're all together in trying to stop this," said Sakai.
Any prison guard who fails a random drug test is suspended for 20 days and offered drug treatment. After a second positive result, the guard is immediately fired.
However drug dealers are not necessarily drug users and it's not known if Sanders or Damas ever tested positive drugs. That's why DPS monitors corrections officers for changes in behavior that could prompt so-called testing for cause.
"We've got to observe certain kinds of symptoms, certain behaviors, certain physical symptoms," Sakai explained. "And if we do and we can document that, then we can send the employee for a cause test."
DPS says there was no "for cause" testing of ACO's at Halawa or OCCC in 2012 or 2013.