HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Hawaii Community Correctional Center is situated in the heart of downtown Hilo and is designed to hold 206 inmates, but is currently over capacity at 295 inmates, making it the most overcrowded jail in the state.
“HCCC has been I think the worst facility I’ve seen,” said Christin Johnson, Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission coordinator.
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The Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission coordinator took a tour of HCCC last week and saw the state of the facility firsthand.
“Currently the women are already housed inappropriately, they’re being housed in dry cells meaning no toilets, no sink,” said Johnson. “They’re being housed in areas that might have a sign that says storage on the door so you know that was never meant to be a cell.”
Unlike the Oahu Community Correctional Center, HCCC doesn’t have a mental health module, resulting in off-island transports in some cases.
The Hawaii County prosecutor’s office said, the conditions are so poor, it’s playing a factor in some judges’ decisions.
“Oftentimes judges will release persons who have been charged with criminal offenses, because of concerns and justifications based on the limitations or the over occupancy at HCCC,” said Kelden Waltjen, Hawaii County prosecutor. “That does not promote trust and competence in our criminal justice system.”
Third Circuit Court Chief Judge Robert D.S. Kim said in a statement:
There is a concern about the overcrowded conditions at HCCC. The situation is critical. The conditions are not acceptable and the courts are painfully aware of the need for a comprehensive plan to alleviate the overcrowding, as well as the emergency need to find bed spaces at other facilities in the State. The situation is dire when compounded with the complete lack of mental health diversion for mental health inmates on the Big Island.”
“We’re doing the best we can to manage the population, the Judiciary is assisting as they can and I should say, before an inmate is released or a pre-trial defendant is released, an assessment process that’s done by the courts and intake service center,” said Tommy Johnson, Department of Public Safety director.
DPS said there are discussions about a feasibility study for a Kona facility to help overcrowding on Hawaii Island.
The department is also looking for funding to relocate HCCC altogether. In the short term, DPS expects construction on a new 48-bed module to be done next year.
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“We’ve outgrown that facility and what we need to do at some point is relocating and building a more modern and efficient facility where we can have programs and services,” Johnson said.