‘Public safety has things that need to be corrected,’ a lawmaker says as a riot occurs at HCCC

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — A jail riot at Hawaii Community Correctional Center is causing concern among some state leaders.

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The Department of Public Safety said the unrest began at 3:45 p.m. Tuesday.

Inmates at the prison set a fire and barricaded the doors. The inmates were subdued using non-lethal means and order was restored at 5:30 p.m.

This is yet another unrest situation that’s occurred in the prison system, weeks after a riot occurred at Oahu Community Correctional Center.

“These are troubling because they involve a lot of people who have to handle the unrest,” said Sen. Clarence Nishihara. “And the guards that have to go in and try to take control of it, so it’s troubling because people can get hurt.”

Nishihara is the chair of the Hawaii State Senate’s Committee on Public Safety.  

He said he wants an overhaul of the public safety system, and more transparency from the Department with strong leadership at the helm.

“It was clear in my mind long before all these things started to happen, we needed to have a complete overhaul of how they approached public safety,” said Nishihara. “Public safety has a whole lot of things that probably needs to be corrected. Part of it is making sure that the people in authority are the right people for the job.”

Governor David Ige just appointed Edmund Fred Hyun as special master to oversee the Department of Public Safety. He will be assessing the administration, corrections and law enforcement divisions, as well as investigating concerns from unions about the department’s COVID-19 response.

Nishihara said he’s anxiously awaiting Hyun’s report, which will be discussed when the new session begins next year.

“I’m hopeful that when [Hyun] does his report, there will be something we can use,” Nishihara said. “There will be actionable things we can do. Then we have to look at whether or not there are personnel changes that need to be made.”

 UPW, the union that represents corrections officers, said they have also reached out to Hyun regarding investigating the concerns the unions raised, and are awaiting his response.

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