HONOLULU (KHON2) — An adult corrections officer (ACO) at Oahu Community Correctional Center said he’s worried that a riot could break out.
He claims that the Department of Public Safety (PSD) isn’t being completely honest about what’s happening inside the prison. He fears that they can’t separate positive cases and that inmates with the virus could be released.
Tension and frustration are boiling beneath the surface at OCCC, according to one ACO who asked to have his identity withheld. He said it’s only a matter of time before it erupts.
“We already had a small riot. We had a housing unit that had a little fire in it and another unit that had a fire in it, two floodings. So it’s only the beginning.”
The ACO said what’s worse is that they are short-staffed. Many guards are out sick with COVID-19. Those who aren’t sick are often working 16 and 24-hour shifts.
After last week’s incident at OCCC, a PSD representative said, “The quarantine lockdowns, cramped conditions combined with the stress of COVID-19 outbreak at OCCC translates to inmates becoming restless and agitated.”
Still, one week later, nothing has changed.
“There’s no solution. There’s no procedure for anything that’s happening over there right now,” claimed the ACO.
The biggest issue is COVID-19. In OCCC, 1,026 inmates were tested. As of Aug. 22, 242 test results came back positive and results for 233 still haven’t been released. Forty-three guards have also tested positive at OCCC.
“Funny thing is, once you get tested they tell you keep going to work until you get the results. Which is kind of funny because what if I’m positive?”
According to the PSD, inmates who test positive are separated.
“That’s not true,” said the ACO. “They don’t move them out of the housing unit, they leave them with the people that are negative because there’s no area to place all the positives.”
The ACO estimates that out of the 19 housing units at OCCC, 17 of them have inmates with positive cases in them.
He said the lack of proper PPE exacerbates the problem.
“They offered us one cloth mask and that was a couple months ago and nothing’s changed.”
He said inmates may get one generic mask each.
“All they get is one. And when we tried to get (an inmate’s mask) replaced because their masks were falling apart and all dirty and broken we are told (by higher ups) they don’t have any.”
According to Department of Public Safety:
“Inmates are all issued cloth face coverings and are frequently reminded of proactive ways they can help prevent the spread of germs, including covering their coughs and sneezes, frequent handwashing, sanitizing their common living areas, refraining from sharing cups and utensils with others, and limiting close contact.”
“All facilities have been issued personal protective equipment (PPE) and the facilities routinely keep an inventory of personal protective equipment (PPE) and supplies. Staff are practicing recommended precautions for the health and safety of the public, our staff and the inmates under our supervision including the use of proper PPE. All staff have been reminded to follow and practice all CDC-recommended health and safety guidelines.”
“They came out and said they’re giving the staff adequate PPE, which I’m sorry to say is a lie. We are not getting what they say we are getting.”
He worries that inmates with the virus could be released.
“According to them, you have to be negative to get out, but we can’t even keep them separated from positives and negatives. And are they going to test the negatives again before they let them out?”
So far, at least 64 inmates have been released since Tuesday. Ten of them were in for misdemeanors, 54 were in for felonies.
More than 300 may still be eligible for release through Monday.
The deputy public defenders said the inmates released are non violent offenders.
The ACO said they want more transparency about what is really happening and they need clearer guidelines on how inmates who test positive and where to put them so they don’t infect others.