Editor’s Note:This is an installment in our occasional series, It’s Your Money, that looks more closely at public expenses that taxpayers may not realize they’re being asked to pay.
What seemed to be a monotonous 2008 spring afternoon for Waiawa prison inmate Andrew Kuresa unexpectedly left him with life-threatening injuries.
After lunch that day, Kuresa’s right hand sustained a wound that landed him in an operating room at the Queen’s Medical Center.
A 250-pound three-legged wild boar who so frequently roamed the sprawling grounds of the minimum-security Waiawa Correctional Facility that inmates and guards gave him a name — Butch. The prison sits on 200 acres in Central Oahu, tucked far from urban life and surrounded by lush vegetation.
As Kuresa and other inmates formed a line-up to return to their housing units after lunch, Butch approached and chomped down on Kuresa’s hand. A prison nurse gave him a tetanus shot and a Band-Aid.
Left to fester, the wound became infected and his entire arm swelled. By the time he was treated at Queen’s, the damage to Kuresa’s hand was severe, leaving his hand permanently disfigured and unable to make a fist.
Kuresa, who was completing the last few months of a five-year sentence, sued the state in early 2009. The suit claimed the state, which operates the prison, was negligent for harboring a wild animal on the grounds and failing to provide a safe environment.
Now, Hawaii taxpayers are on the hook for a $25,250 settlement.
The boar attacked three others, including a guard, according to Kuresa’s attorney Daphne Barbee.
“The thing that bothers me is that when (Andrew) got out of surgery, the wild boar was still on the grounds,” Barbee told Civil Beat. “Others had been bitten before, so the state had notice that this was a dangerous animal. Would they allow a wild German Shepard loose on the grounds?”
Barbee contends the attack was unprovoked. Some accounts of the attack have reported that Kuresa had a sandwich in his hand at the time, and that he may have been trying to feed Butch.
“The inmates are searched during line-up, so he couldn’t have had food in his hand,” Barbee said. “The boar just came up and bit him on the hand. He also bit another inmate on the thigh.”
In addition to the open landscape, the prison’s sewage treatment ponds and fruit and vegetable farm attract the boars. At the time of Kuresa’s attack, Barbee said workers and guards would often throw out slop that would attract pigs, creating what she called hazardous conditions.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, which runs the facility, says wild pigs were so prevalent at one time that the prison set traps to help eradicate the feral animals.
“After that incident we put out live traps that caught hundreds of pigs over a two-year period,” DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said in an email to Civil Beat. “That helped end the problem — for now. Eventually we will probably have to do it again. The prison is out in the valley … so pigs are abundant there.”
Schwartz said wild pigs still roam the compound’s perimeter fence, but no attacks have occurred since Kuresa’s. She said inmates have been instructed not to feed the animals, and warning signs have been posted to that effect.
Schwartz said the Department of Land and Natural Resources was eventually called in to capture Butch. His whereabouts after that are unknown.
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