A female prisoner who spent two days at the Federal Detention Center near the Honolulu airport last week has tested positive for COVID-19, prompting federal officials to issue a warning to staff who might have had contact with the inmate.

That is the first known case of a prisoner in Hawaii who tested positive for the new coronavirus, which has spread rapidly through some correctional systems on the mainland.

An inmate at the Federal Detention Center has tested positive for COVID-19.

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

The possibility of a COVID outbreak in Hawaii jails and prisons prompted the state courts system to release more than 800 inmates earlier this year. That effort was designed to reduce the populations in overcrowded state facilities to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

In an email Monday, Chief U.S. Pretrial Services Officer for Hawaii Carol Miyashiro notified the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Federal Public Defender’s office that a pretrial defendant who was in pretrial services from about 1:30 p.m. to about 3 p.m. had tested positive.

“The defendant and any pretrial officers/staff who were exposed are quarantined for the next 14 days,” Miyashiro said in the email. Miyashiro declined to comment further.

The pretrial services office essentially provides intake services to inmates entering the federal correctional system, and provides pre-trial supervision to prisoners who are released.

A source who is familiar with the case said the Federal Detention Center has a policy of holding newly admitted inmates in isolation cells in the Special Holding Unit on the upper floors of the Federal Detention Center to try to prevent the spread of the virus within the facility.

The female inmate was released, reported to the pretrial services office, and then tested positive later, according to the source. It’s unknown if the released prisoner may have had contact with anyone on the Prince Kuhio Federal Building at 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, where the pretrial services office is located.

A spokeswoman for the Federal Detention Center did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

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