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Senate panels to get briefing on Maui jail

Gathering set for Tuesday at UH-Maui College

The Maui News

The state Senate Ways and Means and Public Safety committees will be seeking an update on conditions at Maui Community Correctional Center following the March riot and reported staffing shortages during an informational briefing with Department of Public Safety officials Tuesday at UH-Maui College.

The Senate committees are requesting an update on the status of health care of inmates; the purchase and distribution of less than lethal equipment for guards; overtime payments; and ratio of inmates to adult corrections officers.

The Public Safety Department has been tapping state deputy sheriffs to assist with adult correctional officer responsibilities and flying in correctional officers from other islands. There were 33 vacancies out of 166 correctional officer positions reported at the Maui jail late last month.

The committees also will be seeking a final report on the March riot at MCCC, changes to existing processes and procedures and the amount of vacancies at MCCC and steps being taken to fill positions.

“We made specific appropriations to fund improvements at the Maui Community Correctional Center,” said Sen. Donovan Dela Cruz, chairman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, “and the committee would like to hear from the Department of Public Safety on the status of the improvements at MCCC.”

The Ways and Means Committee passed a bill to cover $5.3 million in emergency jail repairs, and another $8 million for next fiscal year to cover long-term security grade improvements.

“We had very serious concerns about MCCC, including inmate health care, overtime, position vacancies, and of course the riot last March that literally left prison staff fearing for their lives,” said Sen. Clarence Nishihara, chairman of the Senate Public Safety, Intergovernmental and Military Affairs Committee. “I think the community is looking to us to make sure there is real, productive action on these matters, and that we don’t let anyone sweep them under the rug.”

The riot on March 11 started after 42 inmates from Module B refused to go back to their cells after recreation time was over, according to the Department of Public Safety. Inmates broke fire sprinklers, damaged cells and the common area and started a fire that sent smoke drifting into the neighboring Module A, triggering a lesser disturbance.

The meeting will be held at 4:30 p.m. at UH-Maui College Paina Dining Hall. The public is invited, but no public testimony will be accepted.