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HCCC Inmates Transferred to O‘ahu Facilities to Ease Overcrowding

June 18, 2021, 7:30 AM HST
* Updated June 18, 7:58 AM
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Twenty-eight inmates from Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center were moved to O‘ahu facilities to alleviate overcrowding in the Big Island jail.

Inmates were flown on two charter flights Thursday, June 17, and transported to the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF) and Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC) without incident. This movement of prisoners comes as HCCC continues to battle a COVID-19 cluster within the jail. There are now 79 active cases among inmates. There are four positive cases among staff, two of which are hospitalized. With an operational capacity of 226, there were currently 344 inmates housed at HCCC, according to a bi-monthly report released from the Public Safety Department on June 7.

“We have made no secret of the fact that our jails, especially HCCC, are overcrowded. The COVID-19 pandemic adds an extra burden to these facilities,” said Max Otani, PSD Director. “We have been looking at options to temporarily free up some space at the Big Island jail. PSD expedited an agreement with a private charter to fly inmates who were medically cleared of COVID to O‘ahu, so that HCCC now has a little more space to medically isolate, quarantine and cohort inmates.”

Only inmates who were vaccinated, and/or tested negative prior to transport, and deemed medically cleared to travel, were considered to be moved to O‘ahu jails. The facilities placed the newly admitted inmates in an intake quarantine, which is in line with PSD’s Pandemic Plan and based on DOH and CDC guidelines for correctional facilities.

Of the 28 inmates flown to O‘ahu, 18 are sentenced felons who were scheduled to be transferred to HCF, three sentenced felons went to WCCC, and seven are pre-trial felons who are being held temporarily at HCF. The seven will return to HCCC once the outbreak there has been mitigated. An additional six sentenced inmates were also transferred to Kulani Correctional Facility.

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“PSD is in constant contact with the Judiciary and the 3rd Circuit courts,” Otani said. “They have been very accommodating in assisting us in all details of this action, including the venue changes for remote hearings and arraignments.”

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Tommy Johnson, Deputy Director for Corrections, said the transport could not have coordinated and executed this quickly without the collaboration of many departments and agencies.

“We want to thank our HCCC health care and security staff, Mainland Branch and Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) staff who secured the air transports, as well as the Halawa staff and the Hawaii Department of Health for helping us quickly accomplish this move,” Johnson said.

The Department of Public Safety continues to encourage all staff and inmates to voluntarily receive the COVID vaccination. For more information on PSD’s planning and response to COVID-19, inmate testing data, and information detailing the efforts made to safeguard the inmates, staff and public, click here.

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COVID-19 testing is continuously being conducted statewide at all facilities.

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