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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, October 23, 2001

Prison ruling favors state

By David Waite
Advertiser Staff Writer

Federal Judge David Ezra said yesterday he won't hold the state in contempt of court for keeping a man in a prison facility for more than 48 hours after revocation of his conditional release from the Hawaii State Hospital.

The man was found handcuffed to a chain-link fence at the hospital.

Ezra said he found the Aug. 29 incident in which a ward of the state, Jerry Lopes, was found bound with a plastic wrist strap to a fence at the hospital in Kane'ohe "personally reprehensible."

But he said he did not see a pattern that suggested state prison and health officials deliberately were evading an order he issued Nov. 8 giving the state no longer than 48 hours to return someone to the state hospital whose release had been revoked.

The order pertains to patients who have been judged not guilty by reason of insanity and later picked up by law enforcement officials for alleged violation of their conditional release.

Ezra warned state officials they were "on notice" that he would not tolerate any more incidents like the one involving Lopes.

He said he would have ruled differently had the state attempted to "brush off" its treatment of Lopes instead of acknowledging the man never should have been kept at Oahu Community Correctional Center longer than permitted, then transferred to the state hospital, only to be left bound to a fence.

Ezra told Bruce Sherman, a lawyer who has brought suit against state officials on behalf of several "acquit and commit" clients, that fining the state large amounts or finding state officials in contempt of his November order would do little good. Sherman's clients claim they had their civil rights violated by being kept in prison facilities for weeks or months after conditional release revocations.

Ezra said, however, that he would grant another of Sherman's requests — that the 48-hour rule he imposed last fall be upgraded from temporary to permanent status.

Reach David Waite at dwaite@honoluluadvertiser.com or (808) 525-8030.