DPS director: Final report on Maui jail riots not ready for lawmakers

Published: Aug. 21, 2019 at 8:44 AM HST
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MAUI, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) -Riots at the Maui Community Correctional Center in March caused million of dollars in damage.

It ended with three injured staff members. The incidents raised many red flags about issues surrounding overcrowding at the facility, with inmates far exceeding capacity.

On Tuesday, two senate committees were expecting a report on exactly what happened during those riots. But they didn’t get it.

Department of Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda was grilled for hours, but in the end, he didn’t provide many answers about staff safety and low morale.

“It will be done in the very very near future, and I ask that the committee understand that it is confidential at this time,” Espinda said of the unfinished report.

He did say the cause for the unprecedented riots was because inmates were fed up with severe overcrowding; four people in a two-person cell, and all of the phones in one module not working.

“How are we going to make anybody feel like they like work in a facility like that? I mean I wouldn’t. I’ve done security, I’ve worked at schools and other firms before. But I wouldn’t apply,” Sen. Kurt Favella, of Ewa Beach, said.

Currently, there are 36 vacant positions at MCCC. Approximately, an eight to one inmate to Adult Correctional Officer ratio. The department paid nearly $2 million in overtime for fiscal year 2019.

Senators grilled Espinda on the extreme shortage of staff, calling it deathly, and asking how morale can be boosted.

“I don’t know where I’ve gotten this reputation of intimidating people and harassing people and retaliating against people because that’s the last thing I do," Espinda said. "I come from the line in this system. I bleed the blue blood of these people. Nobody wants success in these institutions more than me.”

“What I was hoping you would say is that you’re gonna take some of these concerns to heart, you’re going to be meeting with your leadership. You’re going to be meeting with the ACOs, and you’re gonna be trying to listen to them without any fear of retaliation and that you’re gonna work with them to make MCCC a better institution. That’s what I wanted you to say. I did not hear that," Sen. Rosalyn Baker, of South and West Maui, said to Espinda.

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