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Civil Beat reporter Yoohyun Jung and photographer Cory Lum visited six state correctional facilities last week. No surprise, the facilities are overcrowded and seriously in need of repair.
Maui Community Correctional Center was designed for 209 inmates. The operating capacity is set at 301 inmates. Four hundred and twenty-two inmates were housed there that day, which is 40% over capacity. Overcrowding led to a major riot at the facility last year, that caused significant damage, some of which still hasn’t been corrected.
Maui inmates pounded and kicked on their cell doors during last week’s media tour, shouting “help” and “I need toilet paper,” among other things. MCCC Warden Deborah Taylor said inmates can get agitated when visitors come through. The bolts on the cell doors shown in the photo were installed after the riot, she said.
Overcrowding at MCCC was one of the reasons that pretrial detainees started a riot last March. Four inmates sleep in the cell on the left. On the right, the supply room door in Module B, where the riot started, was damaged. Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda has said that the inmates were trying to get supplies.
At MCCC, the orange suit means that the inmate is a pretrial detainee. The 91 inmates in Module B were all pretrial detainees. The repairs cost the state $5.1 million. The state is still investigating the incident.
MCCC’s Module C is the first to have a complete security upgrade. The cameras do not zoom into the cell areas for privacy reasons.
Waiawa Correctional Facility is a minimum security facility for sentenced male felons in central Oahu that includes an 8-acre farm, aquaponics and hydroponics programs. The produce that comes out of Waiawa is commercially distributed, as well as donated. The media tour was abruptly cancelled last week due to an inmate medical emergency.
Oahu Community Correctional Center is one of the largest correctional facilities in the state. OCCC houses 1,071 inmates, compared to 897 at Halawa.
The OCCC medical mental health module is identical in design to all of the other housing modules and also accommodates disabled inmates, Chief of Security Caesar Altares says. The capacity is 48 people, and 46 are currently in it. This module is not overcrowded because some cells can only hold one person due to medical reasons, he says.
Many of the other modules at OCCC are overcrowded. Inmates are forced to sleep on the unsanitary floor, where there is barely enough room for one person to lie down, much less two people. In the cell that Civil Beat visited, the toilet was not working and it was overflowing with toilet paper.
OCCC does not allow contact visits. Inmates can only meet with visitors through a glass window and talk to them through a phone receiver. Altares says too much contraband was being exchanged through visitor contact. Corrections officers were confiscating everything from cigarettes and cellphones to drugs.
Corrections supervisors in Hawaii have pointed to recruiting as one of the biggest challenges they’re facing today. OCCC has 68 vacancies for corrections officers and 16 vacancies for civilian positions. Espinda, the public safety director, said the department has taken more aggressive approaches to fix that problem.
Laumaka Work Furlough Center is a separate facility in Kalihi across the street from OCCC, which also has a work furlough module. Inmates in these programs are allowed to leave to go to work but must return at the end of the day. If they do not return, they are considered escapees, for which they can face up to five additional years in prison.
The Women’s Community Correctional Center in Kailua only houses female inmates who have been sentenced to one year or more in prison. The operating capacity is 341 and the population as of last week was 247.
The dorm area at WCCC, set up in a large hall with bunk beds lined up in rows, is not air conditioned. There are four cottages broken up into four dorm areas at WCCC.
WCCC has a farming and hydroponics program that some inmates can participate in. Hyacinth Poouahi, one of the inmates, says being involved in the program has changed her in many ways. “I’m able to work with the aina and give back to the aina,” she says. The hydroponics farm produces lettuce that the facility itself uses and sells to Foodland as well.
At Halawa Correctional Facility, different color suits indicate different security levels of the inmates. Black stripes are general population, while green are work line inmates, and red are closed security inmates, one level down from maximum security. Maximum security inmates wear orange suits.
This chess game was interrupted when the media was escorted into the module at Halawa. This particular module houses general population inmates, says Acting Chief of Security Calvin Mock. Halawa only houses convicted inmates and is not overcrowded, so Mock says the facility does not have to triple bunk.
Inmates at Halawa are allowed out of their cells once a shift, unless otherwise restricted, Mock says. There are three shifts in a day. Corrections officers conduct six different standing head counts a day, as well as a walk-through in the middle of the night.
The main street at Halawa separates the special needs facility and the medium security facility. According to an informational booklet provided by the facility, the special needs facility used to be the city jail and was transferred to the state in 1975. The medium security facility opened in 1987.
Halawa has the largest operating capacity of all the prisons in Hawaii, but OCCC has a larger population. Halawa houses convicted felons and some convicted of misdemeanors as well as pretrial maximum custody inmates.
Aging inmates are a growing problem at Halawa, Mock says. A legislative task force has also warned that the aging prison population will cost the state millions of dollars for health care.
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