A 23-year-old prison inmate crawled through the ceiling in an Oahu Community Correctional Center bathroom and could have climbed through a 16-foot fence to make his early morning escape Monday, a prison official said.
Ted Sakai, director of the Department of Public Safety, said Daniel Skelton was being held in OCCC’s medium security facility after being sent there on June 4 in lieu of $20,000 bail.
The prosecutor’s office said Skelton, a career criminal since 2010 with numerous convictions for theft, had been scheduled for a contempt of court hearing in December. But when he didn’t show up, a bench warrant was issued for his arrest.
As part of the department’s internal affairs investigation, Sakai said prison officials are trying to determine if Skelton either punched a hole in the ceiling of OCCC’s medium security annex 1 or took advantage of some work that had been done by workmen above a shower stall.
From there Skelton was able to wiggle his 5-foot-10-inch frame through the opening into a crawl space above the annex and then onto the roof of the one-story wooden building.
Prison officials suspect that the 145-pound inmate then went through a 16-foot chain link fence on the Ewa side of the 16-acre prison facility on Kamehameha Highway adjacent to the old Foremost Diary facility.
Skelton was last seen an hour before the 6 a.m. head count.
The Kalihi facility was placed in lockdown for nearly four hours while prison officials investigated the escape.
Skelton was being held in an open bay wooden building originally intended to house only work furlough inmates, who are allowed to participate in programs outside the prison daily to prepare them for eventually release and parole.
Sakai said the building was orignally designed to house 80 inmates and is located away from the prison, which holds high security inmates in separate concrete modules.
Because of OCCC’s overcrowding problems, the wooden annex now holds up to 120 inmates, including higer risk pretrial detainees like Skelton. There were 102 inmates in the medium security facility before Skelton’s escape.
The Kalihi prison was designed to house 600 inmates, but now has 1,100 to 1,200 inmates, Sakai said.
Skelton has seven petty misdemeanor theft convictions since 2010.
Skelton was charged with burglary in 2010. In 2011, his motion for a deferred acceptance of no-contest plea was denied and he was placed on five years of probation.
Since then he has had multiple violations of probation. In 2013, he was accepted into Drug Court and released on his own recognizance to drug treatment.
Sakai is now considering 10 proposals to help alleviate the inmate overcrowding crisis. One would replace OCCC with a larger prison in West Oahu. Two others call for expansion of the Halawa medium-security prison, including combining it with OCCC to take advantage of the efficiencies of consolidation.
Thirteen firms or partnerships, all with correctional experience, responded to the state’s request for information, for building new prison facilities that could cost as much as $1 billion.
Police and deputy sherriffs also have been searching for Alan Abihai, 52, who left OCCC June 10 on work furlough and failed to return that night.
Abihai served his minimum term and was released on parole in October 2009. In June 2010, Abihai was returned to custody as a parole violator.
At his parole hearing in April, the parole board recommended that he participate in the work furlough program before being paroled.
This is the second time that Abihai has escaped. In 2006, he was free for two months after walking away from the Laumaka Work Furlough Center.