Animal quarantine facility identified as preferred spot for new OCCC

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The preferred future home for the Oahu Community Correctional Center is in Halawa, at the animal quarantine facility.

The location was identified as the best of four possible sites in a draft environmental impact statement, the governor announced Wednesday.

He said the 25-acre site would have the lowest project construction costs at $525 million, and it meets all their requirements to build a new jail.

"It's away from residents, it would have the lowest impact to existing public safety operations, and it will have, we believe, a minimum environmental impact," Gov. David Ige said.

While the Halawa site is preferred, it's not a done deal that the new OCCC will be built there.

Ige says the draft environmental impact statement (DEIS) -- for all four locations -- is now complete and a public comment period now begins and continues for 60 days.

The three other sites that were under consideration are a second Halawa location, a plot of land at Mililani Tech Park, and a fourth location in Kalihi.

Seven others potential sites, including all of the proposed locations in West Oahu, were eliminated from contention.

The DEIS includes a new animal quarantine facility that would be rebuilt next door, as well as a plan to send OCCC's female inmates to an all women's facility in Kailua.

"Women detainees at OCCC don't have access to services. And I think have inadequate health services as well," said House public safety committee chair State Rep. Gregg Takayama.

OCCC was built back in the 1970s, designed for 924 inmates. Today, there are more than 1,200 men and women behind those walls.

"The current OCCC is outdated. It's costly to maintain. It's overcrowded," Ige said. "The draft EIS is really that next step to move forward."

A state report in June also ranked the Animal Quarantine Facility as the best spot for the new OCCC.

The state hopes to start building the new facility as early as 2020 and have it operational within four years.

Opponents say before the state commits to building a half billion dollar prison, it should think about keeping fewer people behind bars.

"We know 51-percent of the people in OCCC are pretrial, which means innocent until proven guilty. We know that many people are in there because they cannot make $50 bail. You don't build a 12-bedroom house for just yourself. You think about how you're going to use this house," said Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons.

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