Twenty-one inmates from MCCC sent to Halawa

Men are identified as ‘aggressively’ participating in Monday disturbance

Twenty-one inmates were identified as “aggressively” participating in a disturbance Monday at the Maui Community Correctional Center and were transported Thursday to Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu.

“Although these detainees are pretrial status, the circumstances dictate this transfer to a more secure facility,” according to a state Department of Public Safety news release.

The inmates arrived on a charter flight to Oahu at 10:45 a.m. Thursday and were transported to the Halawa facility by 11:25 a.m.

Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda said the department was working with the courts to allow videoconferencing for some hearings to minimize the need to transport inmates back to Maui for court hearings.

The inmates were identified through on-duty staff observations and preliminary investigative questioning of inmates, the news release said.

The disturbance was reported just before 3 p.m. Monday, when 42 inmates from one module refused to leave a common area to return to their cells when recreational time was over, according to the department. Inmates broke fire sprinklers and started a small fire in the common area, with smoke drifting to an adjacent module, where inmates started a lesser disturbance, the department reported.

Significant damage was reported to the two modules housing pretrial inmates before the situation was declared contained by 6:26 p.m. Monday, according to the department.

Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said Thursday that the two damaged modules have 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,” she said. “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.”

While a facility-wide lockdown was lifted at 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, “individual damaged areas remain locked down and will be released from that status once appropriate safety, security and utility repairs are completed,” Schwartz said.

She said that on Wednesday, inmates “were still expectedly agitated and were loudly pounding on the cell doors of the module.”

“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,” Espinda said.

Public Safety officials said the disturbance and later disruptive actions are part of a continuing internal investigation.

Schwartz said jail staff members continue to question inmates to identify all of those involved in the disturbance.

Jail health care staffers have been working extended hours since Monday and providing medical care requested by inmates, according to the news release Thursday. While preliminary information shortly after the disturbance indicated that inmates hadn’t reported injuries, officials later learned that two inmates reported minor injuries.

According to the news release, one person was injured in an inmate-on-inmate altercation and another inmate injured his hand while punching a hole in a divider. Both were treated at a hospital emergency room and returned to the jail within two hours.

* Lila Fujimoto can be reached at lfujimoto@mauinews.com.