The state Department of Public Safety is refusing to disclose the names of 37 inmates transferred from the Maui Community Correctional Center to the Halawa Correctional Facility in the past two weeks because of their alleged involvement in a jail riot.
The department is generally required by required by law to publicly disclose an individual’s presence at a correctional facility. Civil Beat requested the names and charges Monday after 21 inmates were transferred following the riot March 11.
In an email sent Monday, Toni Schwartz, a department spokeswoman, released a general list of charges the initial 21 transferees were facing before the riot, but with no names attached.
The unnamed prisoners were awaiting trial on a variety of charges, including criminal property damage, theft, assault, terroristic threatening, criminal trespassing, burglary, sex assault, family abuse and arson.
Some were facing lesser charges such as forgery and driving without a license.
Schwartz said that the department had been advised to withhold names because releasing them might impede a criminal investigation by the Maui Police Department and an internal investigation into the riot by the public safety department.
Since then, five of those inmates who the department discovered were not part of the riot were sent back to Maui.
Civil Beat asked Thursday for the names of an additional 16 pre-trial inmates who were transferred to Halawa on Wednesday after they were found to be connected with the riots. They didn’t start the disturbance, but were involved in them, the department said in a news release.
Schwartz said in an email Thursday that the names of people that could have been involved in the riot could change as the investigation continues and cited the inmate’s due process rights.
The department is apparently trying to protect the inmates’ privacy rights, said attorney Brian Black, executive director for The Civil Beat Law Center for the Public Interest.
Suspects in investigations typically have certain privacy rights up to the point they’re arrested, Black said. This situation is more complicated, since the riot suspects were already arrested and jailed for other alleged crimes.
“It’s obvious they’re really still in the middle,” Black said of the investigations. “They don’t know who to charge so they don’t want to out people and claim they were part of the riot when they weren’t.”
The inmate transfer is already impacting several upcoming court proceedings. Tyler Stevenson, a Maui public defender, said that he should be doing in-person visits with his clients at this point in their proceedings.
He can’t though, because some of them have been moved from Wailuku to Halawa.
“It’s going to be tough to send me out to Oahu,” Stevenson said. “But if that’s what we’ve got to do, that’s what we’re going to do.”
Schwartz previously said that the department has no timeline for how long the pretrial detainees might be on Oahu.
Stevenson said that he ask the court to have his clients moved back to Maui if they are still on Oahu after the department’s and MPD’s investigations are finished.
Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda previously said in news releases that the riot started over dissatisfaction with overcrowding.
The Maui jail had 410 inmates in February, but has an operational capacity of only 301, according to a department report.
The Maui News reported Thursday that the riot erupted after jail officials met with inmates to talk about broken phones. An inmate the newspaper spoke to said that there were also issues with delayed repairs.
MCCC has a slew of systems that need maintenance. The department reports that renovations for air conditioning in the intake center, the jail’s four modules and an additional building would cost a total $1.4 million.
MCCC also needs $4 million worth of upgrades to be compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and about $1.7 million in electronics upgrades. Gov. David Ige included $52.7 million for capital improvements at Department of Public Safety facilities statewide in his proposed budget.
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Blaze Lovell is a reporter for Civil Beat and a graduate of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas. He was born and raised on Oahu. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter at @blaze_lovell