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New 80-bed housing unit coming to MCCC

$7.5M state project aims to ease problem of overcrowding at jail

The view from an officer’s station shows a two-story facility interior illuminated by skylights, part of the state’s proposed $7.5 million Medium Security Housing Unit addition to the Maui Community Correctional Center. Construction would start next year, with completion by 2021. DLR Group illustrations

The Department of Public Safety plans to start construction next year on an 80-bed medium security housing unit for the long-overcrowded Maui Community Correctional Center.

Listing MCCC among its highest priority infrastructure projects in the state, the department released a draft environmental assessment for the $7.5 million project in Thursday’s edition of the Office of Environmental Quality Control’s “The Environmental Notice.”

Completion of the new facility is estimated for 2021, according to the report.

Although MCCC has an operational capacity of 301 beds, it is currently 38 percent over capacity with 415 inmates as of Nov. 30, the report said. It is one of three correctional facilities in the state — including those on Kauai and Hawaii island — targeted to receive medium security housing units, which the report said would not increase the jail population beyond current numbers.

The new, roughly 20,000-square-foot unit with would add two buildings for inmate housing, medical facilities and building services near the center of the existing 7.23-acre jail site in Wailuku.

An illustration shows the view of the outdoor recreational room in the new $7.5 million Medium Security Housing Unit addition proposed for Maui Community Correctional Center, which would provide 80 beds to the overcrowded jail without increasing population, according to a draft environmental assessment released by the state Thursday.

One structure of 8,762 square feet would have 32 beds and the other of 10,197 square feet would hold 48 beds, according to plans by consultant DLR Group. The larger facility would contain six mini dorms or 24 cell units; the smaller would have four mini dorms or 16 cell units. Dorms and cell units can be customized depending on needs, the report said.

Cell walls will be constructed with two inches of metal, and metal wall panels are grouted in concrete to act as a sound barrier between cells. Cell sizes are based on American Correctional Association standards and will contain bunks, a small desk and two stools welded to the metal wall panels, along with a combination toilet/sink.

Day rooms will hold tables and areas for inmate activities “such as dining, passive recreation, video visiting, viewing garden observation and showers,” the report said. An exterior recreation yard will be enclosed on all sides with a solid security wall. The yards are open to the sky with a security mesh covering for natural daylight and fresh air.

Maui facility inmate population increased 14.3 percent over three years, from 434 inmates on Dec. 31, 2014, to 496 inmates on Dec. 31, 2017. Of the overall population, males increased from 374 to 425 (about 4.5 percent annually) and females went from 60 to 71 (about 6.1 percent annually) during the same timeframe. MCCC had 354 males and 61 females on Nov. 30, according to the report.

MCCC is considered a jail and not a prison, the report said, detailing the need for a medium security unit. As such, pretrail detainees must be kept separate from those serving sentences. Also, the jail operates on a “distributed services” model, in which detainees stay in housing units while meals, drug treatment, counseling and minor medical treatment are delivered. Jails are responsible for providing diagnosis and treatment programs for those with chemical dependencies or undiagnosed mental health issues.

The exterior of Maui Community Correctional Center site where the proposed $7.5 million Medium Security Housing Unit would be constructed is shown.

The department listed alleviating overcrowding at MCCC as a high priority, along with the replacement of the Oahu Community Correctional Center and the expansion of the Women’s Community Correctional Center on Oahu, both of which are underway.

MCCC is located on the old Maui Jail site, which was transferred to the state in 1973. Many of MCCC’s buildings were constructed in the mid-’90s, and all of the structures are in need of replacement or major renovation, the report said. Also, jail support and program components were rated inadequate.

Inmates blamed overcrowded and poor conditions as the impetus behind the riot at MCCC on March 11, and one of the men who escaped from the jail on April 14 said he fled due to fear over jail conditions. Overcrowding has been a problem statewide and has resulted in inmates being transferred to the Mainland.

Since 1991, Hawaii’s prison and jail population has grown well beyond the system’s capacity, during which time no new facilities were added, the report said. “Consequently, (state Department of Public Safety) has been forced to double-bunk cells, add beds to dorms without adding space and convert spaces normally used for inmate programs.”

The “persistent and severe crowding and lack of suitable space” in Hawaii has required the department to house about 31 percent of the state’s prison inmate population on the Mainland. Contracting for prison beds started in 1995, when 300 male inmates were transferred to Texas. As of Nov. 30, about 1,459 state prison inmates were housed on the Mainland, according to the report.

Comments on the draft assessment for the MCCC medium security housing unit are due by July 22 and may be sent to state project coordinator Reynaldo D. Rios via email at reynaldo.d.rios@hawaii.gov or by mail to the state Department of Accounting and General Services, Project Management Branch, 1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 430, Honolulu, HI 96813. Rios can also be contacted at (808) 586-0468. A copy should also be sent to the consultant, Louis Berger U.S. Inc., at 412 Mt. Kemble Avenue, Morristown, NJ 07962, or to company Vice President Robert J. Nardi at rnardi@louisberger.com. He can also be reached at (973) 407-1681.

To view the full draft assessment, visit oeqc2.doh.hawaii.gov/EA_EIS_Library/2019-05-23-MA-DEA-New-Housing-at-Maui-Community-Correctional-Center.pdf.

* Kehaulani Cerizo can be reached at kcerizo@mauinews.com.