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Positive COVID Cases at HCCC Delays Start of 2 Jury Trials

By Tiffany DeMasters
April 17, 2021, 8:50 AM HST
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The first batch of inmates and staff at Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center tested for COVID-19  yielded all negative results. Testing was initiated after two positive cases were identified among employees this week.

As of Friday, April 16, 91 inmates and 34 staff members were tested for the virus. There are currently 50 inmates in quarantine being monitored for symptoms, however, no one has reported being sick, officials reported. Follow-up testing is being coordinated with the Department of Health.

HCCC suspended all inmate movement after the first employee’s positive test was reported on Monday, April 12. The first employee to come down with the virus last worked on April 7 and the second on April 8. The Public Safety Department has not said what positions they hold at the jail or what type of contact they have with the in-custodies.

Third Circuit Court’s Chief Judge Robert DS Kim said the movement of inmates not only impacts their transport to the courthouses but also their access to Zoom to appear for hearings virtually.

“They (correctional officers) won’t move them (inmates) within the facility if they’re in quarantine,” Kim said. “If it (COVID-19) actually gets into the facility, it’ll be tragic.”

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HCCC’s protocol to suspend the movement of inmates has impacted the commencement of two jury trials, including that of Shannon Ke, facing an attempted murder charge after reportedly assaulting a Hawai‘i police officer in 2019. With the trials slated to begin on April 20 and 21, Kim said, they have been rescheduled for April 22.

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Toni Schwartz, PSD spokesperson, said they don’t have a timeline for how long movement will be suspended.

“The movement suspension and quarantine are in line with PSD’s pandemic plan and were implemented to keep inmates, staff and the public safe,” Schwartz stated in an email. “PSD Health Care staff will continue to monitor inmates and will lift the quarantine when they are confident that the threat of possible virus spread inside the facility has been averted.”

PSD health care staff has been conducting testing this week with assistance from the DOH and Premier Medical Group.

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COVID-19 testing is continuously being conducted statewide at all facilities. Currently, the inmate population at all facilities is clear of active COVID-19 cases.

Tiffany DeMasters
Tiffany DeMasters is a reporter for Big Island Now. Tiffany worked as the cops and courts reporter for West Hawaii Today from 2017 to 2019. She also contributed stories to Ke Ola Magazine and Honolulu Civil Beat.
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