Inmate Dies Immediately After Escaping Prison

( – The Kaua’i Police Department in Hawaii is looking for the driver who fled the scene of a hit-and-run on March 22 that killed an escaped prisoner. Matthew J. Ornellas Jr., 33, was able to escape over a prison wall at Kaua’i Community Correctional Center and then hid inside some thick brush. The prison guards lost sight of Ornellas, which allowed him the chance to run away. After walking onto Kuhio highway, Ornellas was hit by a vehicle. The prison guards heard the impact and were able to locate the prisoner just 100 yards away, according to a statement released by Hawaii Governor Josh Green.

Ornella was found with severe injuries and transported by ambulance to the hospital. According to Green’s statement, Ornellas’s condition quickly worsened, and he died on March 28. The statement also said that the guards “observed a dark-colored vehicle making a U-turn on Kuhio Highway.” The police department asked citizens to contact the investigating officer or Crime Stoppers if they have information about the hit-and-run. Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (DCR) Director Tommy Johnson expressed condolences to the family members of Ornellas.

The prison where Ornellas was housed has minimum and medium-level security units. Ornellas was serving time for “promoting a dangerous drug,” after being convicted of a Class C felony. In early January, a press release from the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation detailed its focus on restoring and rehabilitating the lives of prisoners since it was re-established in 2022, changing its name from the Hawai’i Department of Public Safety.

The statement commended the department’s director, Tommy Johnson, for his efforts to create a secure environment for prisoners that would provide them with the tools necessary for life outside of prison. The statement noted that the facility was old and in shambles, which exacerbated security and safety concerns for prisoners and staff. The condition of the facility also prevented the implementation and expansion of programs that would help transform the lives of the prisoners, according to the statement.

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