Overcrowding could be cause of MCCC disturbance, says PSD

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Overcrowding. Public Safety officials say that could be a big reason for Monday’s riot at Maui’s jail. The damage prisoners caused from the incident has made things even worse.

One lawmaker says he’s shocked to hear what happened at Maui Community Correctional Center. Senator Clarence Nishihara is aware of the overcrowding but is also concerned about facility maintenance. 

Officials say the module where the disturbance took place is not useable because of the extensive damage. So the inmates from that module are being moved into other areas in the facility. This on top of an already overcrowded institution. 

“The main way to battle overcrowding conditions is to assure a maximum amount of out of cell time,” said PSD Director Nolan Espinda. “More time out of cell, the less time in confined spaced, the better our chance to deal with the situation.”

As of February, there are 410 inmates at the Maui jail. The bed capacity at that facility is 301. We reached out to ACLU of Hawaii and in a statement Executive Director Joshua Wisch says:  

“We do not know the specific causes of the disturbance on Maui so are limited in what we can say at this time, but in general the ACLU of Hawai’i has raised concerns for years about unsafe conditions in all our jails and prisons, including significant overcrowding at the Maui Community Correctional Center. That is why we filed a formal complaint about prison and jail conditions in Hawai’i with the U.S. Department of Justice in 2017. We will be monitoring the situation as we learn more.”

Senator Clarence Nishihara, Public Safety Committee Chair, says he’s aware of the overcrowding and is also concerned with possible maintenance issues. 

“Do they have the resources? Are they given the money to make those major or minor repairs, find those repairs as they need, which precipitates things as a guy, a guy escaped from OCCC. The doors weren’t locked because the doors were inoperative, so he was able to escape. So those kinds of things comes down to maintenance.”

We’re told MCCC met minimum staffing level requirements on all shifts, even though there are 17 correctional officer vacancies.

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