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Investigative Report Seeks Answers to Maui Inmate Death at Mainland Prison

Posted March 20, 2017, 04:31 PM HST Updated March 21, 2017, 04:01 PM HST
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SINGLE USE IMAGE.  Namauleg died while serving time in an Arizona prison

Johnathan Namauleg with mother Arlene Takai during his Maui High School graduation in 2013. Photo courtesy of Arlene Takai via Gabriel Thompson.

Questions surrounding the death of a Maui resident at a prison in Arizona in 2015 are being brought to light in an investigative article, “Prisoners in Hawaiʻi Are Being Sent to Die in Private Prisons in Arizona” that appears in the March issue of VICE magazine.

Journalist Gabriel Thompson explores documents that raise questions about what happened to Johnathan Namauleg, 21, who was found unconscious and face down on the floor in a cell at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona on Aug. 6, 2015.

Namauleg was serving time for third degree arson in connection with a fire that occurred at the Hawaiian Canoe Club hale in Kahului, three years earlier, on July 26, 2012.

On the day of his death, his cell mate had activated a distress button in the housing cell, and advised correctional officers that Namauleg was in need of medical attention.  Authorities say Namauleg later died after transport to the hospital.

His cellmate, 41-year old Jason McCormick is serving a life sentence with the possibility of parole for second degree murder.  McCormick was found guilty in the 1996 death of University of Pittsburgh professor Robert T. Henderson.

One in a series of letters that Johnathan Namauleg sent to his mother while imprisoned at Saguaro. Courtesy image via Gabriel Thompson.

In a series of letters to his mother, Namauleg expresses love for his family and makes requests for help with money and logistics in getting paroled.

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According to the Vice account, Namauleg eventually was paroled and was doing well for a while, but was sent back to prison after violating terms of his probation.

The Vice account provides details on a Hawaiʻi prison system plagued with issues of overcrowding.  It also raises questions about oversight relating to dangerous conditions facing Hawaiʻi inmates in mainland prisons.

The in depth account sheds light on investigative findings surrounding Namauleg’s cell-mate, a reported delay in response by correctional officers to emergency calls, and questions over objectivity in monitoring prison compliance.

The report states that Namauleg’s mother has since filed a wrongful-death lawsuit against the Corrections Corporation of America in Arizona’s Superior Court.

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