In 2019, the Hawaii State Legislature created the five-member, independent commission to help improve the corrections system, including prison overcrowding. In January of 2020, the Commission held its first public meeting, and the first staff member was hired in July of 2022.
Meet the Commission
Mark Patterson, Chair
Appointed by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs chair Colette Machado, Chair Patterson is the current Administrator of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility and former Warden of the Women’s Community Correctional Center. He is known for his work in Trauma Informed Care within a Correctional Environment.
Appointed by Speaker of the House of Representatives Scott Saiki, Commissioner Torney is the former Executive Director of the Office of Youth Services and the former Deputy Director of Administration of the Department of Public Safety. Commissioner Torney’s extensive professional career was focused in the field of juvenile and adult corrections.
Honorable Ronald Ibarra (retired)
Appointed by Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Judge Ibarra was appointed as a Circuit Court Judge in 1989. He has been the Third Circuit’s Administrative Judge since 1993 and served as its first Chief Judge before retiring in 2017. In addition to presiding over civil and criminal cases, Judge Ibarra served on number judicial and State Bar committees and started two important courts: Veterans Treatment Court (2015) and Big Island Drug Court (2002). Judge Ibarra continues to serve on various judiciary, county, and state commissions and is involved with the Bar Association.
Honorable Mike Town (retired)
Appointed by Senate President Ronald Kouchi, Judge Michael A. Town retired in 2010 after over 30 years as a trial judge—14 in Family Court and 16 in Circuit Court, with 3 as Senior Judge. He tried a wide variety of both criminal and civil cases. As an adjunct law professor for about 20 years, he taught Criminal Law, Restorative Justice, Family Law, and more at the University of Hawaii. Judge Town has published articles on the unified family court and judge as a coach among others. He has conducted workshops nationally and internationally. He holds degrees from Stanford, Hastings College of the Law, and Yale School of Law. Active in his community, he served on various committees, boards, and received awards for community service. Judge Town was a 2008 Sports Ethics Fellow and served in the U.S. Peace Corps in Colombia, South America. Notably, Judge Town served as a commissioner on the Parole Board from 2011-2019.
Governor’s Designee – Vacant
Meet the Staff
Christin M. Johnson, Oversight Coordinator
Christin M. Johnson, appointed by Governor Ige in July 2022, serves as the State’s first Oversight Coordinator for the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission. With a background in corrections reform, she previously worked in oversight roles in Michigan and New York City, including serving as a Standards Specialist for the New York City Board of Correction, where she focused on improving conditions for individuals in custody and facility staff on Rikers Island. Christin began her career as an Analyst with the Michigan Legislative Corrections Ombudsman, overseeing and investigating complaints in the state prison system.
Christin is a nationally recognized Certified Practitioner of Oversight and co-chairs the Jail and Prison Oversight Committee at the National Association of Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement (NACOLE). Christin holds a Masters in Criminal Justice with a double concentration in Analysis of Criminal Behavior and Corrections and Rehabilitation from the University of Cincinnati and a Bachelor of Science in Sociology with a concentration in Criminal Justice from Central Michigan University.
George Choe, Special Assistant to the Oversight Coordinator
George has immense clerical and leadership experience from his previous roles working in the Attorney General’s office as the Assistant to the Special Assistant to the Attorney General and as a District Manager for many years at Hertz. George has a newfound passion for law and will be furthering his education in the legal system while working with the Commission.
Cara Compani, Reentry and Diversion Oversight Specialist
Cara brings over a decade of experience in correctional oversight and reform on the local, national, and system-wide levels. Cara led the work of the D.C. Corrections Information Council in their inspection and monitoring of local and federal correctional facilities. Cara was also part of the Reimagining Prison Project work at the Vera Institute of Justice, which put forward a new, reimagined vision for the future of corrections. Cara has now turned her attention to the Aloha State and is fiercely passionate about furthering the work of the Commission. Cara is a native New Yorker with a J.D. from the Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University and an LL.M. from The George Washington University Law School.
Theodore (Ted) Sakai – Founding Commissioner
Commissioner Sakai dedicated five decades of unwavering service to the community of the State of Hawaii as a distinguished public servant. Initiating his career in the 1970s with the John Howard Association of Hawai’i, Commissioner Sakai provided assistance and counsel to individuals in the Halawa jail, and eventually became Executive Director of the John Howard Association of Hawai’i. Since 1979, Commissioner Sakai held various executive positions within the State Department of Public Safety’s (PSD) corrections system. Notably, he served as the director from 1998 until his retirement in 2002. In June 2012, Governor Neil Abercrombie persuaded Commissioner Sakai to return for a second term as the Department of Public Safety Director, where he garnered recognition from the Association of State Correctional Administrators (ASCA) with the 2014 Outstanding Director of Corrections Award. The ASCA commended Sakai for expanding programs for incarcerated individuals, enhancing security measures, improving staff recruitment, and advocating for staff well-being. Commissioner Sakai concluded his second tenure with the Department of Public Safety in 2014.
Commissioner Sakai dedicated his life to fostering a more humane corrections system, and his compassion for those in need is immeasurable. In the decade following his initial retirement, Commissioner Sakai continued his dedication by tirelessly working to facilitate programs and services for the children of incarcerated individuals. Additionally, Commissioner Sakai served on many volunteer boards and organizations including serving as volunteer Executive Director for Pu’ulu Lapa’au, assisting healthcare professionals with potential substance use disorders, mental or physical illness, or behavioral concerns. His commitment to addressing the unique challenges faced by incarcerated individuals and people affected by incarceration or substance abuse exemplified his ongoing passion for making a positive impact on the community.
In October 2019, Commissioner Sakai was appointed to the newly established Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission, further contributing his expertise and leadership to the field. During his tenure as Commissioner, Commissioner Sakai actively participated in the Commission’s public meetings, conducted thorough facility tours in collaboration with the new Oversight Coordinator, and consistently emphasized the imperative for enhancements within the state’s reentry system.
Commissioner Sakai’s December 4th, 2023 resignation marks the conclusion of a distinguished career characterized by unwavering dedication and substantial contributions to the correctional system. The Commission expresses gratitude for Commissioner Sakai’s invaluable service.