HONOLULU (KHON2) — Honolulu police have classified the death of a 23-year-old inmate at OCCC as murder.
The man was allegedly assaulted on Dec. 14, by inmates and died from his injuries on Thursday.
The Department of Public Safety said the man was in an altercation with other inmates on Dec. 14.
HPD said he was found unresponsive with a traumatic injury.
The man was taken to a nearby hospital and moved to hospice on Wednesday but succumbed to his injuries Thursday morning.
Criminal defense lawyer Victor Bakke said most of his clients fear for their lives on a daily basis at OCCC.
“First of all, it’s very unfortunate but it’s not surprising,” Bakke said. “The facility there is overcrowded, it’s mismanaged, and it’s just a tinder box.” He brought up the riot that happened at Maui Community Correctional Center last year.
He said he has clients who are constantly looking over their shoulder.
“Every day, every day I have clients that if they’re not being assaulted, they’re in deadly fear of being assaulted. I represent a large number of people who have been accused of sex crimes and the rumors or stories are true— they’re targeted when they go in just because of the nature of their charge,” Bakke said.
Bakke said another problem is mixing dangerous criminals with non-violent offenders, who are all waiting for their day in court.
“The people at OCCC are awaiting their trials or they’ve already been sentenced to probation and are serving a jail term of 18 months or less,” he explains.
“So you get murderers, you get every type of case as long as it’s pending trial you get those people [at OCCC], so there’s bad potential there for different levels of offenders to mix and not all criminals are the same,” he said.
As for protective custody, Bakke said that comes with a price.
“If they’re given that option, most won’t take that. They would rather be in the general population and risk their health then sit in a cell for 23 hours a day in protective custody,” he said.
“I’ve had several clients that have been assaulted in there, we have gang problems, there’s just a lot of problems but for whatever reason the current establishment that’s been in place for many years they can’t get a grip on it,” Bakke said.
He said another problem is people coming and going to jail.
“People are constantly going in and out of the facility they come in, they stay for a short time, they go back out, so there’s a lot of pressure to do things once they get out or once they come in,” he explained.
“OCCC is literally on Dillingham Blvd, and people come in and out of there on a daily basis so there’s a lot of potential there for friction and gang activity and things like that,” Bakke said.
DPS said the 23-year-old was released from state custody on Jan. 9, as the case against him was dismissed in court.
The alleged assault case was referred to the Attorney General’s Office for investigation in December.
The DPS said there were 16 deaths at statewide in 2019.
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