State Supreme Court Orders Release of OCCC Prisoners
Several prisoners will be released from O‘ahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC), some as soon as Wednesday, as the coronavirus continues to spread rapidly through the prison population and staff alike.
The Hawai‘i Supreme Court on Sunday ordered the release of all prisoners inside OCCC being held on misdemeanor charges, except for those whose offenses involve domestic abuse. To be released, detainees must test negative for COVID-19 and display no symptoms that might indicate infection. Those who are sick and meet the requirements for release will be set free once they’re deemed no longer contagious.
In its published decision, the state’s highest court said the viral outbreak inside OCCC places inmates and those who work at the jail at risk, as well as their families and the community at large. The current community spread in Hawai‘i is among the worst in the country, with thousands of cases reported through the first half of August alone.
Those statistics have been worsened by the viral surge inside the facility, where more than 200 cases had been identified as of Sunday, including at least 170 prisoners and at least 30 staff members.
All released prisoners will be ordered to observe a mandatory, 14-day self-quarantine. Critics of the move have cited high recidivism rates among those detainees previously released early in the name of suppressing COVID-19 spread, noting that several have committed repeat offenses once set free.
As of Sunday, the Hawai‘i Supreme Court had not issued release orders for any neighbor island correctional facilities due to the current surge of coronavirus, which is largely centralized on O‘ahu.