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Prison guard accused of smuggling drugs released on bond

By Gregg K. Kakesako

LAST UPDATED: 03:37 p.m. HST, Jan 27, 2014

A federal judge released a 45-year-old Halawa prison guard this afternoon on a $50,000 signature bond.

Federal Judge Barry Kurren approved Marc Damas' request to go free after a 2:30 p.m. initial appearance at U.S. District Court.

Kurren said he will be released to the custody of his wife.

Damas is charged with conspiracy to distribute and possession with the intent to distribute five grams or more of methamphetamine. 

Damas is suspected of accepting payments for distributing contraband such as cigarettes, cigarette lighters, Krazy Glue, pipes for crack or cocaine, and narcotics such as meth, or "ice," and various forms of cocaine to Halawa prisoners, according to a court affidavit.

Meantime, as part of the ongoing evaluation of security measures in place at the state's prison system, officials are tightening procedures tied to searches of both visitors and correctional guards, the head of the state's correctional system said today.

Ted Sakai, director of the state Department of Public Safety, also said the frequency of inmates random drug testing will be increased.

During a press conference, Sakai said the arrest Sunday of Marc Damas at his post as adult correctional officer at the Halawa Correctional Facility was not a surprise since the state has been working with federal and county law officers to try to control the flow of illegal drugs into island prisons.

Damas, 45, is the second prison guard this month to have been charged with smuggling methamphetamine into the Oahu prison.

Halawa guard James "Kimo" Sanders III pleaded not guilty Jan. 13 to smuggling meth into the prison and bribery. Sanders, 31, of Kailua, was arrested at the prison Jan. 12 and charged with two counts of distributing methamphetamine; conspiring to distribute and possess with intent to distribute methamphetamine; and bribery.

Sanders, who is accused of distributing five grams or more of meth on Nov. 15, and distributing 50 grams or more of meth a week later, was released to his grandmother on a $50,000 bond and ordered by the judge to turn over his passport and wear a GPS tracking device. His trial is set for March 18.

Sakai said Damas' arrest is part of "a continuing investigation" that is ongoing "to root out corruption in our facilities."

"Contraband is a problem in almost every correctional facility in the country," Sakai told reporters. "It's a particular problem for us. It's not that we are any better or any worse."

He continued, "We recognize that contraband, especially drugs, becomes a real problem in management of the facility, safety of the employees and safety of the inmates. It also affects our ability to provide the right kind of programs for inmates."

Sakai said prison gangs use contraband to exert control within the prisons and acknowledged that there are multiple gangs within the 1,000-inmate prison population.

Sakai said that all prison guards are supposed to be searched before entering the prisons and even padded down before starting their shift. Nearly 1,300 prison guards are employed by the state. As a result of the prison system's security evaluation, the searches will likely become more thorough.

If convicted of either conspiracy or distribution of 50 grams or more of meth, Sanders faces up to life in prison, with a mandatory minimum term of 10 years in prison, and a fine of up to $10 million. The maximum penalty for the smaller distribution charge is 40 years in prison, a mandatory minimum term of five years, and a fine of $5 million. The maximum penalty for the bribery charge is 10 years in prison and a fine of $250,000.

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Skyler wrote:
"As part of the ongoing evaluation of security measures in place at the state's prison system, officials are tightening procedures tied to searches of both visitors and correctional guards, the head of the state's correctional system said today."

What's missing from this statement? Drug testing the correctional guards - or will unions not allow that?
on January 27,2014 | 12:49PM
South76 wrote:
The inmates have limited contact with the outside world, so the problem lies with those who are free to come and go and have contact with the inmates--family visitors and prison workers. There should be an increase in random drug testing and strict searches to those who have contacts with the inmates.
on January 27,2014 | 01:41PM
drrddrd1993 wrote:
Guards have been drug tested the past 10 plus years. You dont have to be a user to be a donkey.
on January 27,2014 | 02:26PM
mellishi wrote:
...here's where the judge should have put him (Marc Damas) in jail and throw the keys away!
on January 27,2014 | 03:35PM
iwanaknow wrote:
The Unions will fight this pat/search tooth and nail...................
on January 27,2014 | 03:43PM
rayhawaii wrote:
Getting drugs into prison as easy as getting drugs and aerial fireworks into the state pass customs.
on January 27,2014 | 01:00PM
WooWoo wrote:
true dat
on January 27,2014 | 01:54PM
scooters wrote:
Build a prison on Kahoʻolawe where they would have to work growing their own food, raising hogs, and cattle. Once a week, families could visit their criminals relatives.
on January 27,2014 | 01:06PM
1R1E wrote:
hana hou!
on January 27,2014 | 02:09PM
inverse wrote:
Great idea, it would be like a scene from the Hunger Games or Running Man where they clear out unexploded ordinance only in certain areas in Kahoolawe and if the prisoners try to escape by leaving the "safe zones' they run the risk of getting blown up.
on January 27,2014 | 02:30PM
niimi wrote:
Build a prison on Kaho'olawe and let the Navy resume bombing again. LOL!
on January 27,2014 | 04:51PM
gsc wrote:
Dumb A- -
on January 27,2014 | 01:36PM
GoldenRule wrote:
This comment has been deleted.
on January 27,2014 | 02:34PM
gmejk wrote:
And for what? To buy new rims for his truck probably. So stupid.
on January 27,2014 | 10:03PM
bumba wrote:
Ted Sakai has been in that job too long. They should have gotten rid of him long ago
on January 27,2014 | 02:53PM
Wazdat wrote:
on January 27,2014 | 07:04PM
hikine wrote:
Should have drug sniffing dogs both for visitors and employees. Why in the world would someone sacrifice their livelihood to give prisoners drugs unless they have ties with them. The system needs overhauling. Two guards in a month but what if there's more involved and weren't caught... yet!
on January 27,2014 | 03:05PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Both Sanders and Damas should have been held without bail until their trial is over......
on January 27,2014 | 05:08PM
Wazdat wrote:
Why did the SA delete all the comments from the morning ???? Censorship
on January 27,2014 | 07:04PM
localguy wrote:
No. Just shoddy IT support. Same quality level as the posting censorship program, gutter quality. Standard for the SA.
on January 27,2014 | 07:44PM
Papakolea wrote:
It's not just that the guards are smuggling things into the prison, they're also turning a blind eye to the abuse of the drugs once they get them to the inmates. They're not about to shut down their gravy train.
on January 27,2014 | 08:29PM
atilter wrote:
whaaaat? this guard has $50k lying around to cover a SIGNATURE BOND? wow, lau lau - business must be REALLY GOOD. WHAT ARE DA QUALIFICATIONS TO BE ONE PRISON GUARD (besides who you know)?
on January 27,2014 | 09:57PM
atilter wrote:
hoo - can smell it coming!!! fed undercover sting to investigate da entire hawaii prison system! only takes one A- - H- - - to muck up da water for all da oddah civil service wise guys.
on January 27,2014 | 10:01PM
sailfish1 wrote:
They need to get rid of these high paid prison adminstrators who do nothing. Use x-ray machines to check everybody going into the prisons and get drug smelling dogs. How hard can it be to keep drugs out of the prisons?? Many foreign countries give drug dealers and smugglers the death penalty - we need that in the U.S.
on January 27,2014 | 10:19PM
Papakolea wrote:
The problem isn't with the administrators. The problem is with the prison guards' union. The union would never agree to having its members go through an X-ray machine.
on January 27,2014 | 10:28PM
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