In wake of riots, DPS director says Maui jail is ‘deathly short of staff’

In wake of riots, DPS director says Maui jail is ‘deathly short of staff’

HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The costs of overtime at Hawaii’s prisons and jails reveal the state’s dire need for more correctional officers.

“In places like Maui, where they are deathly short of staff and deathly overcrowded, rightfully so, the staff are frustrated and feeling helpless," Nolan Espinda, the director of the Department of Public Safety, told state senators on Maui on Tuesday.

"We can do all we can short of dragging someone off the street by the ear and saying come to work. It’s a difficult and challenging process.”

In total, there are 171 vacant positions across the state’s eight correctional facilities.

The facility with the highest number of vacant positions is Oahu Community Correctional Center with 56. The next highest is Halawa Correctional Facility with 47, and third highest is Maui Community Correctional Center with 36.

“Our ability to fill vacant positions are affected by our allotted payroll,” said DPS Health Care Director Dr. Gavin Takenaka. “All of our vacant positions cannot be filled until May or June of 2020. Our inability to fill vacant positions is not due to our inability to recruit, it’s our inability to pay."

However, figures released by the department clearly shows that recruitment is a challenge.

Of the 298 people who applied to work for Oahu Community Correctional Center this year, only 28 passed the physical exam.

At Hawaii Community Correction Center, 127 people applied and nine passed the physical test.

On Maui, 72 people applied and only five passed the physical.

On Kauai, 49 people applied but only four passed.

Without enough workers, the department paid nearly $14 million in overtime expenditures for fiscal year 2019.

The highest facilities were OCCC totaling $3.3 million, HCCC at $2 million and MCCC at $1.9 million.

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