The Hawaii Department of Health has determined the death of an 87-year-old prisoner at Halawa Correctional Facility last month was related to Covid-19, making that the 11th fatality in a state prison or jail that has been blamed on the coronavirus since the pandemic began.

Christin Johnson, coordinator for the Hawaii Correctional Systems Oversight Commission, on Thursday announced the death of the prisoner, which happened on Dec. 25. He was found unresponsive with no pulse at the Halawa prison infirmary at 8:50 p.m., she said.

Michael Hoffman, the Department of Public Safety’s deputy director for corrections, told the commission on Thursday the Health Department later determined the death was linked to Covid-19. It was the ninth Covid-related death at Halawa, which is the state’s largest prison.

26 may 2015. photograph Cory Lum/Civil Beat
The death of an inmate in the infirmary of Halawa Correctional Facility on Christmas Day is the ninth death at the prison linked to Covid-19. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2015

The Department of Public Safety’s death notification list identified the inmate as Paul Grubb, who was sentenced in 1987 to 55 years in prison for the sexual assaults of three young girls on Maui. Grubb previously lived in Texas, and had served another nine year prison term there for a similar conviction, according to newspaper accounts of the case.

Bob Merce, a lawyer who for years has been placing terminally ill or older prisoners in hospice facilities or nursing homes, told the commission Grubb was very ill. Merce tried for about 18 months to move Grubb to a nursing home, but was unable to find a home that would accept Grubb because he was a sex offender.

“Because of that offense, nobody wanted him, and we tried everything to find someone to take him,” Merce told the commission. “We tried to get him back home to Kentucky where he was from originally, but we never located his family, we never located any relatives.”

He said Grubb was wheelchair-bound, suffered from a severe heart condition and was deemed eligible for medical release two years ago because he was no longer a danger to anyone.

Mark Patterson, chairman of the oversight commission, said commission members need to have more discussions on “how do we handle the elderly in our system who are really no longer public safety concerns.”

Grubb was the 16th inmate to die in a state correctional facility last year. Three of those deaths — Destiny Brown, Jonathan Pico and Diamond Simeona-Agoo — were apparent suicides.

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