Maui News

28 Inmates from Hilo Transferred to O‘ahu to Alleviate Overcrowding

June 18, 2021, 8:03 AM HST
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Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center. PC: Department of Public Safety, Annual legislative report

The Department of Public Safety transferred 28 inmates from the Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center in Hilo on Hawaʻi Island to the Hālawa Correctional Facility and Women’s Community Correctional Center on Oʻahu, to help alleviate overcrowding at the Big Island jail.

This comes after a disturbance reported at the Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center earlier this month. There is also a COVID-19 outbreak at the Hawaiʻi Community Correctional Center, where 205 inmates and 20 staff members had tested positive. The number of active cases has since dropped to 79 inmates and four staff. 

The HCCC inmates arrived on two charter flights Thursday afternoon and were transported to HCF and WCCC without incident.

Of the 28 who flew to Oʻahu, 18 are sentenced felons who were scheduled to be transferred to Hālawa, three sentenced felons went to WCCC, and seven are pre-trial felons who are being held temporarily at Hālawa. The seven will return to Hilo once the outbreak there has been mitigated. An additional six sentenced inmates were also transferred to Kulani Correctional Facility. 

“We have made no secret of the fact that our jails, especially HCCC, are overcrowded. The COVID-19 pandemic adds an extra burden to these facilities,” said Max Otani, PSD Director. “We have been looking at options to temporarily free up some space at the Big Island jail. PSD expedited an agreement with a private charter to fly inmates who were medically cleared of COVID to Oʻahu, so that HCCC now has a little more space to medically isolate, quarantine and cohort inmates.”

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“This transport could not have been coordinated and executed this fast and efficiently without the collaboration of many departments and agencies. We want to thank Kulani Correctional Facility staff, HCCC health care and security staff as well as the Mainland Branch and Oʻahu Community Correctional Center staff who secured the air transports.  We also want to acknowledge the Hālawa staff and the Hawaiʻi Department of Health for helping us quickly accomplish this move,” said Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director for Corrections.

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Director Otani continued, “PSD is in constant contact with the Judiciary and the Third Circuit courts. They have been very accommodating in assisting us in all details of this action, including the venue changes for remote hearings and arraignments.”

Only inmates who have been vaccinated, and/or tested negative prior to transport, and deemed medically cleared to travel, were considered. The facilities placed the newly admitted inmates in an intake quarantine, which is in line with PSD’s Pandemic Plan and based on DOH and CDC guidelines for correctional facilities.

The Department of Public Safety continues to encourage all staff and inmates to voluntarily receive the COVID vaccination. 

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