HONOLULU (KHON2) — A state lawmaker is raising a red flag at Halawa prison, over what he calls health-and-safety risks for overworked, understaffed corrections officers.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella, the Senate minority leader, held an unannounced visit to the prison and said he found out many are working 16 hours straight, and some as much as 50 hours in a row. That’s to cover for short-staffing and others not showing up for shifts.

Get news on the go with KHON 2GO, KHON’s morning podcast, every morning at 8

“So now imagine you’re working one 40-hour shift, and you have to walk the line where the inmates are,” Fevella said. “That presents a safety hazard because of your reaction time. Everybody knows fatigue is big on your safety.”

Fevella says critical posts are going unmanned, and services such as the clinic, church, and even cafeteria time for inmates have to be cut back. He’s asking for emergency hires, assign sheriffs to fill in, or even bring in the National Guard.

Prison officials told KHON2 there are 52 vacancies out of about 330 Halawa positions, plus another 50 staff out on various types of leave.

“The staff that are present and able to work are commended for their public service, dedication, and hard work, which largely goes unnoticed by the community,” a DPS spokesperson said.

Stolen jewels, boa constrictors killing owners, check out Weird News here

Full statement from the Department of Public Safety:

“The Department of Public Safety has made no secret of the fact that the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF) is dealing with a staffing shortage. Contractually, essential security posts have to be filled whenever possible, which requires holding over some employees to work longer shifts in order to maintain adequate coverage of the essential posts. The facility and PSD have a mandate to provide for the care and safe custody of inmates and will do what is necessary to ensure the inmates under our custody are taken care of.  It is challenging but HCF is addressing all mandatory post requirements as best it can and working diligently to maintain operations for the safety and security of inmates, staff, and the general public. 

HCF is allocated 332 Adult Correctional Officer positions; however, based on vacancies (52), protected leaves, workers’ compensation, TDI, and other extended absences, the staff physically present at work is considerably less than HCF’s 332 allocated positions. Of the 332 allocated ACO positions, there are a total of 280 filled ACO positions and over 50 staff out on various types of leave including workman’s comp, sick, FMLA, and military. The staff that are present and able to work are commended for their public service, dedication, and hard work, which largely goes unnoticed by the community.

PSD is making every effort to address the staffing issues. Sheriffs are frequently requested to assist with perimeter security. They help when they can, but the Sheriff Division is also short-staffed and working to fill vacancies. Their collective bargaining unit agreement does not include correctional training. In order to consider that option, union consultation with both HGEA and UPW would be necessary. PSD is working as quick as possible to fill vacancies through increased external recruitment efforts, additional corrections recruitment classes, including day and evening classes, and the hiring of additional emergency hires. Several of the vacant ACO positions will soon be filled by recruits currently undergoing training at our Training Services Division (TSD). Once they have completed training, they will be report to their respective facility for duty.  In addition, PSD has been in contact with retirees to see if they wish to work part-time as well.”