Hawaii Updates: Lawmakers Told Violent Offenders Released, Victims Go Into Hiding; Cases Up 2

43 minutes ago

State House lawmakers weren’t happy to hear that violent offenders and domestic abusers have been let go as part of the COVID-19 inmate release program.

County prosecutors told the House public safety committee yesterday that contrary to the notion that only non-violent detainees would be released, it’s not what has happened.

Dennis Dunn, director of the Honolulu prosecutor’s victim-witness program, described two of the cases.

“A defendant who was convicted of terroristic threatening in the first degree and a felony abuse of a family household member against his ex-girlfriend, in an instance in which he choked his girlfriend until unconscious, was given a COVID-19 release despite the fact that he was in custody for repeatedly violating virtually every condition of his probation, and that he had 28 prior arrests, and two convictions for violating protective orders," he said.

"Equally disturbing are some of the sex offenders and I won't mention his name, but he was charged with the continuous sexual assault of a child. He was in custody with $150,000 bail. He was awaiting trial. Despite the fact that he had been on probation at the time that he committed this offense for sexual abuse of another child, he was released on supervised release to his sister.”

Dunn said victims fear that they won’t be told of their abusers’ release or they will be informed too late. Many have gone into hiding because they don’t believe prosecutors and police can keep them safe anymore, he said.

State Attorney General Clare Connors told lawmakers she did not have numbers for all of the counties but that 47 of those released have been re-arrested by Honolulu police.

She said that may seem like a small number to some -- more than 800 inmates have been let go -- but she noted that's not how a victim of a released detainee would view it.

There have been no reported coronavirus cases among those held in the state correctional centers, according to the state Department of Public Safety.

"We do think this process should stop," Connors said of the release program. She said the state requested that the Hawaii Supreme Court halt the inmate releases last month but the process continues.

Committee Chair Gregg Takayama asked Connors if Gov. David Ige could instruct the Department of Public Safety to stop the releases. She said she didn't see how he could, given that it is the Hawaii Supreme Court that has ordered the detainees be let out.

Yesterday's Hawaii Updates: Cases Up 2; City Moving Ahead With Testing; Big Island Beaches Open 

State Public Defender James Tabe backed the inmate releases, saying a COVID-19 outbreak in a prison could overwhelm the health care system, particularly on the Neighbor Islands.

He reminded lawmakers that some of those targeted for release were pre-trial detainees who had not yet been tried and convicted of crimes.

Another group are sentenced inmates, and "some of them may have been dangerous at some point or have committed serious crimes," Tabe said. But he added all convicted felons will be up for parole and will need to have a suitable plan before they are paroled.

Hawaii Foodbank distribution at Aloha Stadium set for tomorrow

Food will again be distributed at the Aloha Stadium tomorrow starting at 10 a.m., with lines allowed no earlier than 7 a.m.

The assistance is aimed at those who have recently became unemployed because of COVID-19 and their families.

Vehicles must enter through Gate 3 on Kahuapa‘ani Street across from the Ice Palace. No other gates will be open for food distribution.

A vehicle can pick up food for a maximum of three households. Recipients should bring a pen, a valid government-issued ID for an adult from each household and a filled out household form

Empty a backseat, trunk, hatchback or tailgate for the food, which will be placed in the vehicle. No walk-ins or bicycles will be allowed.

About 4,000 households will be served or until supplies run out. More information and a map is available on the foodbank's website.

Antibody, COVID-19 swab tests available today, tomorrow on Maui

The Premier Medical Group is holding drive-through tests today at South Maui Community Park Gymnasium and tomorrow at Keopuolani Regional Park. Both drive-throughs run from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. 

Access to Keopuolani Park will only be allowed by making a right turn off Wahinepio Avenue. No left turns from Kaahumanu Avenue will be permitted.

Antibody tests are not covered by insurance and cost about $45. COVID-19 nasal swab tests are covered by most insurance plans.

Participants will be screened for testing at the drive-through based on U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines. They should remain in their vehicles, bring a valid ID, be prepared to fill out informational sheets and bring an insurance card, if possible.

Where we stand

Hawaii recorded two new coronavirus cases yesterday, continuing a run of days with zero or few additional cases and spurring the moves to reopen the economy.

The state health department reported the number of recorded cases at 643; deaths stand at 17. The case count for Oahu is at 416, Maui County at 115, Hawaii Island at 79 and Kauai at 21. There are 10 cases diagnosed out of state. Some 578 people have been released from isolation.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

Editor's note: We’d like to hear how you’re coping with the latest developments in dealing with the spread of the coronavirus. You can call our talkback line at 808-792-8217. Or e-mail us at talkback@hawaiipublicradio.org.