21 Maui Inmates Transferred to Hālawa

March 14, 2019, 11:45 AM HST · Updated March 19, 11:42 AM
Wendy Osher · 20 Comments
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Disturbance at MCCC. (3.11.19) Photo by Wendy Osher

By Wendy Osher

A total of 21 inmates were transferred from the Maui Community Correctional Center in Wailuku to the Hālawa Correctional Facility on Oʻahu this morning.

Officials with the state Public Safety Department say the 21 individuals were “definitively” identified as detainees who “aggressively participated in” Monday’s riot at the Maui jail.

The determination was made through on-duty staff observations and a preliminary investigative questioning of inmates.

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The 21 inmates identified in the investigation, arrived on a charter flight to Oʻahu at 10:45 a.m. on Thursday, March 14, 2019, and were transported to Hālawa Correctional Facility by 11:25 a.m., without incident, according to Toni Schwartz, Public Information Officer with PSD.

“Although these detainees are pre-trial status, the circumstances dictate this transfer to a more secure facility,” Schwartz said in a press release statement this morning.

“We want to thank the OCCC staff who secured the air transport, the Hālawa Correctional Facility staff, our Maui and Oʻahu Sheriffs, the Maui Police Department, the Maui Fire Department, Maui Mayor Michael Victorino, the Judiciary and other criminal justice entities who have been very accommodating in assisting us in all details of this action, from the very beginning, and up to now. We are working with the courts to allow video conferencing for certain hearings, so we can minimize the need to transport these detainees back to Maui for court,” said Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda. “This large transport to Hālawa went off without a hitch because of the team effort made by all involved”.

PSD officials say staff at the Maui facility have been proactive in identifying the inmates responsible for Monday’s disturbance and subsequent activity.  Staff have been assessing damage “so that the facility can return to normal operations as soon as possible.”

According to department officials, the questioning of inmates continues to determine all parties involved in all phases of the disturbance. Officials say that once all inmates responsible for the incident are confirmed, they will be brought up on criminal charges as well as internal disciplinary action, pending the outcome of the investigations.

Authorities say Monday’s disturbance resulted in significant damage to two modules. Both have since been secured. Although the common areas in those units are still unusable, individual cells that are fully or partially operational, are now being occupied by inmates. The damage to the common area is still being assessed. In the meantime, inmates in those modules will use the outside recreation field during their out of cell time.

Maui Now received reports of alleged abuses including a report of injured inmates who do not have access to medication, toilets or medical care.  This report came from an unnamed source who is a family member of an pre-trial detainee at the Maui facility.

The report further alleges that the incident began over lack of phones, among other things. Maui Now received information that the facility allegedly went from four working phones, to just one, and that the wait time for a phone was so long, that talk time was significantly reduced.

PSD officials responded to our inquiry saying, “Medical care for inmates requesting it has been continuously provided by facility health care staff who have been working extended hours since Monday. Preliminary information received in the early aftermath of the disturbance indicated that inmates had not come forward to report injuries. Reports are still being compiled but, we have learned that two inmates reported minor injuries sustained. One was due to an inmate-on-inmate altercation and another injured his hand while punching a hole in a divider. Both were treated at a nearby hospital emergency room and returned to the facility within two hours.”

Schwartz tells Maui Now that individual toilets in cells and tier showers were destroyed by the participating inmates on Monday.  “Alternate unrestricted toilet access and restricted shower access is being provided every inmate at MCCC,” she said in an email correspondence.

Further updates will be provided as information is received.

Sources asked Maui Now that if inmates “just refused” to return to their cells after recreation, what was the reason behind the refusal?

“At this point, and based on the actions of the participants, the motivation behind the disturbance and subsequent agitation appears to be dissatisfaction with conditions related to the extreme overcrowded conditions at the jail,” said Director Espinda.

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.

The disturbance remains under investigation internally by the Department of Public Safety as well as criminally by the Maui Police Department.

Wendy Osher
Wendy Osher leads the Maui Now news team. She is also the news voice of parent company, Pacific Media Group, having served nearly 20 years as News Director for the company’s six Maui radio stations.

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