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Inmates Still Agitated, Overcrowding Likely Source of Monday’s Riot at MCCC

File image.

By Wendy Osher

Overcrowding is likely the source of Monday’s inmate disturbance [1] at Maui Community Correctional Center, according to Toni Schwartz, Public Information Officer for the Hawaiʻi Department of Public Safety. Schwartz tells Maui Now that staff have been talking to inmates all day today to allow them to voice their frustrations.

She said despite reports of there being another inmate disturbance today, she said, “There is no riot happening at MCCC.” She did however say, “It is expected that they will still be agitated and may create loud situations. Earlier they were pounding on the cell doors of the module. They are currently out in the rec field to decompress as staff make sure the doors are still sound.”

As a precaution the rest of the facility was placed on lockdown so attention could be focused on the inmates from that particular module.

Schwartz provided further detail saying, “There have been no non-lethal shots fired at inmates. There are no new fires being set. We are very proud of the staff who are exhausted but still showing up to work to support their crew.”

Disturbance at MCCC. (3.11.19) Photo by Wendy Osher

Today’s response comes on the heels of a “disturbance” reported on Monday afternoon in which 42 inmates refused an order to return to their cells after rec time. Authorities say inmates involved in Monday’s incident began breaking fire sprinklers, and non-compliant inmates started a small fire in the common area.

PSD officials say an investigations into Monday’s disturbance will determine the ultimate reason behind why inmates did what they did, “but the conditions related to overcrowding likely are the source of the disturbance,” said Schwartz.

“PSD has reqularly expressed, in all possible forums, our deep concerns for the admitted overcrowded conditions in our jails across the state. Until our additional bed spaces across the state become a reality, PSD will continue to do all in its power and capability to continue to operate safe, secure, clean and constitutionally compliant facilities across the state,” Shwartz said in a written response to Maui Now.

Department newsletters, reports and studies on the neighbor island housing projects that are currently in the planning process to help alleviate the “persistent and significant overcrowded conditions” at the Kauaʻi, Maui and Hawaiʻi jails are available in the following LINK [2].

According to the documents, Maui Community Correctional Center was built with a design capacity for 209 beds. As of May 31, 2018, MCCC had 399 male inmates and 70 female inmates for a total of 469 inmates.  That’s 56% above its operational capacity of 301 beds.