City prosecutor questions prison reform as serial rapist faces new charges

Published On: Oct 25 2013 06:23:00 PM HST

A man with a long history of sexual assault was charged Thursday with the kidnap and rape of a 21-year-old woman on Sept. 15.

Click here to see Andrew Pereira's report.

Michael Lee Carter, 45, allegedly raped the woman while participating in the Laumaka work furlough program connected to the Oahu Community Correctional Center in Kalihi.

According to a police affidavit, Carter lured the woman to Royal Elementary School on a Sunday morning with the promise of drugs. The case went unsolved until this past Wednesday when the alleged victim spotted Carter in downtown Honolulu and flagged down a patrol officer. Carter was spotted by the officer at the corner of Kukui Street and Nuuanu Avenue, where he was arrested.

City Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro says Carter’s latest run-in with the law is further proof prison reform known as the Justice Reinvestment Act is not working. Kaneshiro says his office recommended against granting Carter work furlough, but the Department of Public Safety disregarded those concerns.

"Some of them should not be out on work furlough because they're dangerous," Kaneshiro told KITV4. "When you rush into decisions and rush people on parole, put people on work furlough that are really not appropriate, the bottom line is you're looking at releasing these guys from prison."

Two bills related to the Justice Reinvestment Act sailed through the 2012 Legislature with almost no opposition. While the goal of the act is to offer more treatment programs to inmates and decrease the overall prison population, Deputy Director of Corrections Max Otani said how inmates like Carter are selected for work furlough has not changed.

"It's the same process that we've used all along,” said Otani. “I think the only reason why work furlough is related to the Justice Reinvestment Act is that we utilize some of the funds that was appropriated for our mainland branch and expanded our furlough population.”

Public Safety Chairman Sen. Will Espero said he plans on contacting Public Safety Director Ted Sakai about the decisions that were made that led to Carter receiving work furlough in June. Carter was scheduled to be released from prison in October of next year.

“This case has nothing to do with legislation that we passed in 2012,” said Espero. "The bigger question on this is whether this individual, who is a serial rapist, was properly vetted and whether he should have been on the work furlough program.”

Carter has a history of sexual assault dating back to 1993. In 2005, he pleaded guilty to multiple counts of sex assault on four downtown Honolulu prostitutes and impersonating an officer. He received a 10-year prison sentence, with a mandatory minimum of 40 months.  

“My problem is the whole concept of Justice Reinvestment, which is how to reduce the cost of incarceration? How to release people from prison,” said Kaneshiro. “I disagree with that premise.”


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