LIHUE — The Kauai Office of the Prosecuting Attorney is strongly objecting to an inmate being considered for participation in the furlough program at the Department of Public Safety.
Jason David Dameron, 39, of Koloa, was sentenced to one year in jail and five years of probation and ordered to pay more than $262,000 to a woman in March after an accident he caused while drunken driving that put her in the hospital for one month.
After serving four months of his one-year jail term, the warden in a letter notified the prosecutor that Dameron was being considered for participation in the work furlough program.
“Please be advised that once the inmate has met the necessary requirements and secured the proper approval, he may be placed on furlough no sooner than 30 days from the date of this letter,” Kauai Community Correctional Center Warden Neal Wagatsuma said in the letter dated July 29.
Under state law, the jail is obligated to notify county prosecutors and police chiefs when a convicted felon is admitted to a work furlough program, conditional release or similar program.
In his objection letter to the jail, Prosecuting Attorney Justin Kollar said Dameron was sentenced just over four months ago to serve a year in “his role in a drunk driving crash in which he caused severe and disabling bodily injury to a young woman.”
“It is disturbing that he would be considered for work furlough having served such a short portion — barely one third — of his jail term,” Kollar said. “I urge you to reconsider and request that you have this inmate serve every single day of the jail term he was sentenced to.”
Kollar said his office objects to these letters “from time to time,” depending on the case and depending on how much time defendants have served on their sentence.
Hawaii Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Dameron was being considered for work furlough, but still had to go through certain steps to get into the program.
“Keep in mind Jason Dameron has only been recommended for furlough at this point,” she said. “He still has to apply for jobs, and be interviewed and accepted for the job, just like anyone else. Once employed, inmates are expected to work five days a week and start paying restitution to victims and rent to the facility for housing.”
On April 4, 2014, Dameron was driving his vehicle on Hulemalu Road near Niamalu when he ran his truck into Jessica Arps, who had just arrived at the Menehune Pond lookout after a night out with friends. His truck pinned her body against her truck, according to reports. As he drove, she fell underneath, reports said.
His blood alcohol content was .215, according to testimony on the day of his sentencing.
Arps told The Garden Island in a previous interview she spent a month hospitalized and several more months undergoing rehabilitation after her leg was severed from her body during the accident.
Schwartz said PSD’s Work Furlough Program is available to Hawaii inmates who complete mandatory rehabilitative, treatment, educational and vocational programs and are professionally prescribed for each inmate.
“Participants must have acceptable behavior, meaning no violence, criminal or gang activity or general misconducts during their incarceration,” she said. “Inmates failing to meet these strict standards are forbidden from participating in the Work Furlough Program.”
The program is for inmates who are within 12 months of scheduled release, such as Dameron, to participate in job searches or work at a job, Schwartz said.
“They may also go to treatment and education programs in the community,” she said. “It also gives the person a way to earn money so he or she can begin paying restitution that is owed to victims.”
Robert Perkinson, University of Hawaii at Manoa professor of American studies, said if one were to look at the criminal justice system exclusively from the perspective of the victim, then it’s easy to see why one would favor quite severe remedies for a defendant.
“The job of the criminal justice system is to take into account everything: the rights of the defendants, the pain and suffering of the victimized and the good of the society as a whole,” Perkinson said. “It’s very clear that work furlough programs are one of the better tools we have for helping people reintegrate successfully into society.”
In 2012, Congress passed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which required PSD to increase the use of community-based programming and reduce the mainland prison population, Schwartz added.
According to a report by the Bureau of Justice Assistance, 17 states, including Hawaii, have experimented with criminal justice reform with JRI. Eight of those 17 states have already had success reducing prison populations by targeting certain population and cost factors, according to the report.
The report said community-based treatment programs, such as the work furlough program, were developed or expanded in 11 JRI states.
Kollar told The Garden Island that Dameron, who had at least two prior operating a vehicle under the influence arrests, was a danger to the community. His license has also been suspended for five years, Kollar said.
Schwartz said if Dameron were to be placed in the work furlough program, he would be monitored.
She also said the former Pacific Missile Range Facility first responder might get to keep his new job after his sentence is over.
Arps could not be reached for comment.