State examines work furlough program after recent violations

Local News

A 60-year-old woman, who did not want her face shown, was one of four victims in Tuesday’s kidnapping and robbery case. She lives in a trailer parked outside of a home on Matlock Avenue in Makiki where she sells art, figurines and other trinkets to earn money.

She said two men barged into her patio area impersonating police officers and demanded their things. They even asked for a gun.

She said the suspects zip-tied her hands, along with two others, and told them to stay put in their chairs.

“How scary was that for you when they tied you up?” asked KHON2.

“Ohh. It’s too much,” said the woman, who broke down and cried. “One guy was searching. One guy watching us. Then take my two friends’ purses.”

Robert Suati Gibson, 31, and Kalai Palakiko Tavares, 34, were work furlough inmates in Module 20 of Oahu Community Correctional Center. The Department of Public Safety says they were out on work furlough looking for jobs.

This isn’t the first time work furlough inmates have gotten into trouble outside of the facility. Back in February, we told you about a work furlough inmate who was arrested for a burglary at a business near the Honolulu airport.

We wanted to know what prison officials are doing about this problem. One possible solution is to bring electronic monitoring devices to work furlough inmates on Oahu.

“Obviously, there’s something wrong with their thinking and we need to identify that problem,” said Toni Schwartz, spokesperson at the Department of Public Safety. “Right now we’re in the phase where we’re looking at the programs and what types of devices we could use, and we did say that we were going to try to get this in place very soon. And so now, I believe something like this should cause us to ramp up the process a lot more.”

According to Schwartz, the department still needs to figure out what types of devices would be used, where the funding would come from and who would be responsible for monitoring the inmates.

Despite these recent incidents, DPS believes these programs help inmates.

“All of these people in the program have less than a year left on their sentence. They’re going to come out of prison no matter what anybody says. They need that guidance where they’re gradually stepping back out into the community,” said Schwartz.

Honolulu city prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro says he’s been a longtime opponent of the work furlough program.

“I’ve raised this concern at the legislature, I’ve raised this concern with public safety, that the guys when you put them on work furlough without proper placement of jobs, then they present a danger to the community,” he told KHON2.

Kaneshiro says he believes the solution is proper screening, “making sure that you don’t let guys who present a danger out on work furlough. The other thing is if they’re on work furlough, they should be going and working at a job, not walking the streets looking for jobs.”

Gibson and Tavares remain in police custody and have yet to be charged.

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