Two staff members at the Oahu Community Correctional Center were injured Thursday after a group of inmates attacked them during a late afternoon dispute, and that violence triggered a shakedown of at least one module at the jail Friday morning, according to jail staff.

The corrections officers were taken to a local emergency room Thursday but were not admitted, according to staff. The staff spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak publicly about the incident.

Staff said the attacks Thursday occurred as some cell doors in Module 17 were opened to prepare for distribution of the evening meal, and a dispute broke out over who would be allowed to distribute the food.

Flowers left two weeks ago are silhouetted against the fence near Oahu Community Correctional Center. January 6, 2021
The Oahu Community Correctional Center was the site of inmate beatings this week. Cory Lum/Civil Beat/2021

Both the corrections officer who walks the floor of the module and an officer who works in a control box were beaten, according to staff.

Module 17 is currently being used to house general population inmates, and normally holds about 45 prisoners, although additional inmates can be housed in some cells.

A shakedown generally involves a show of force by the jail staff who do intensive searches of cells looking for contraband, and conduct strip searches of the inmates. That process began Friday morning, according to one employee.

OCCC is the state’s largest jail, and currently holds about 970 men and women inmates.

The department said in a written response to questions that a male inmate in a housing module at the jail assaulted a corrections officer at about 4:30 p.m.

“Another ACO tried to intervene and was assaulted as well. Other staff responded to restrain the inmate,” and the facility was placed on lockdown, according to the statement. Both officers were treated and released for their injuries at a nearby hospital.

One of the officers has been with the department for 23 years, and the other for almost two years, according to the statement.

The department said inmate Sean Young, 37, was charged with assault. Young was also taken to the medical unit for assessment and “rehoused.”

“An investigation is underway to determine if any other inmates were involved,” the department said in its statement. “All inmates who are found to be responsible will face administrative and criminal charges once the investigation is complete.”

Corrections workers have complained for months about chronic short-staffing at the jail as employees have been sidelined by the pandemic.

The department said in its written statement that “COVID-19 has created a tremendous amount of strain on our overcrowded facilities. Quarantine lockdowns, and cramped conditions, combined with the stress of the COVID-19 outbreak at OCCC translates to inmates becoming restless and agitated.”

Data from the Department of Public Safety shows there were 13 active cases of Covid-19 among OCCC employees as of Jan. 31, and 190 cases among the inmates as of Thursday.

Staff said this is the second time in less than a year that a corrections officer was injured in an assault. Another officer was pushed down some stairs in the facility last year and suffered a head injury, staff said.

In response to questions about that earlier incident, the department said in its written statement that two OCCC inmates got into an altercation June 18 at about 1:45 p.m., and a responding corrections officer was injured while trying to break up the fight.

“One inmate and the officer were both taken to a nearby hospital and later released,” according to the statement. The incident is still under investigation, but “one inmate was criminally and administratively charged with assault of a correctional officer.”

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