Warden called to court 6 times for flubs

  • Hawaii Community Correctional Center Warden Peter Cabreros (right, center) talks with officers and employees Thursday from the front of the entrance of the old Hilo County Jail building.

KAILUA-KONA — Over the course of 12 months, the warden of Hawaii Community Correctional Center was ordered before a judge six times to show cause on erroneous releases and failed transports to Kona’s courthouses.

Last week, West Hawaii Today made a records request to the Department of Public Safety for statistics from January 2018 to date for erroneous releases from HCCC as well as times inmates were not transported to court. The request comes after pretrial murder detainee Brian Lee Smith was not brought out from the Hilo facility to the 3rd Circuit Court in Kealakekua for a scheduled four-hour December hearing to discuss several pretrial motions.


This was the second blunder in Smith’s case. On July 24, he was mistakenly released from HCCC. Officials didn’t realize it was a mistake until the morning of July 26. The 49-year-old turned himself in that evening.

According to statistics from DPS, there were seven mistaken releases over the past 12 months, two of which occurred after Smith was released.

DPS also reported there have been 10 instances where inmates refused to appear in court or could not appear due to extenuating circumstances.

“We make every effort to transport custodies for their scheduled appearance,” said DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz. “If an unforeseen situation arises, we will work with the courts to resolve the matter.”

Out of the 10, four of those incidents occurred after Smith was mistakenly released.

Schwartz confirmed HCCC Warden Peter Cabreros was ordered to court six times over the course of the year because of these mishaps.

Smith’s mistaken release resulted in an internal investigation. Last week, DPS Director Nolan Espinda appeared before the state Senate Ways and Means Committee to present his department’s proposed budget when lawmakers asked for an update on the investigation.

While the investigation is winding down, Espinda told lawmakers several new changes had been put into place. Some of those changes include filling civilian records positions, creating new adult corrections officers posts, training both civilian and uniform staff in records, intake and transportation, and initiating a pilot program with the 3rd Circuit for the electronic transmission of court orders.

A pilot program has also been initiated with 3rd Circuit Court for the electronic transmission via email of court orders pertaining to bail in the Circuit Court.

In addition, the department has been working with the Judiciary to streamline the process of receiving court orders and calendars, which is ongoing.

Now, court calendars are faxed to Hawaii Community Correctional Center between one and two days before Circuit Court hearings. When add-on calendars are faxed, the court clerks call HCCC to inform them of the update. Sheriffs are also given a physical copy of the calendar.


Smith is facing numerous charges, including second-degree murder, for a June 23 shooting on Painted Church Road in Honaunau. The incident left Thomas Ballesteros Jr. dead, and Smith and another man with gunshot wounds.

After being indicted July 9, Smith’s bail was set at $1.15 million. Bail was increased to $2 million after he was taken back into custody following his mistaken release.

  1. Buds4All January 16, 2019 4:46 am

    My guess is he is about due for a promotion? If the Jail looks that dilapidated (not that it is supposed to be the Mauna Kea Resort) it’s no wonder why there are escapes and premature releases. It looks like a 3rd world rat trap.

    1. Dave Thompson January 16, 2019 11:57 am

      All you have to do is READ the caption. It is the Old Hilo County Jail.

      1. Buds4All January 16, 2019 12:02 pm

        Is this the one they are going to tear down? I have never been in jail so I can not speak from experience.

        1. Dave Thompson January 16, 2019 12:09 pm

          One of the local papers said they tried to sell it, but no buyers so they apparently ARE going to tear it down.

  2. Big ideas January 16, 2019 8:08 am

    Flubs = incompetence = high praise and salary increase.

    Doesn’t ANYONE in Hawaii take their job seriously? Take leadership positions seriously?

  3. wasabi January 16, 2019 5:54 pm

    Jail next door to Hilo School.
    Yes please tear it down……give it to the school.
    Incompetency has run amok with this “repeat offender” so called “warden”
    ( So sorry will do bettah…I promise, next time)
    NO next time
    You already had your next time
    Two “Next Times” Times ago
    I pray No promotion for this non functioning relic.
    GIT! says a taxpayer and voter

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