Toshio Meronek

Islands in the Sand

Why thousands of Hawaiian prisoners are languishing in the Arizona desert

Written by Toshio Meronek

In the mid-1970s, Delbert Wakinekona became a local celebrity in Hawaii. Convicted of murder, he escaped not once, but twice from Halawa State Prison on Oahu. “They catch me about six months later, they take me back to prison and hook up high security: closed-circuit TV, electric doors,” he says.

After the first escape, the governor declared on television: “Wakinekona will never escape again from there.” Months later, he escaped. Again.