Lawmakers set aside millions for overcrowding at Maui jail to prevent further riots

Updated: Nov. 19, 2019 at 5:33 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - It’s been eight months since destructive riots broke out at the Maui Community Correctional Center ― and damage inside the modules is still visible.

Investigations into the incidents are still ongoing. Earlier this year, the head of the state’s Department of Public Safety said severe overcrowding was to blame, but the facility is still 40 percent over capacity.

“It’s a place I don’t want to ever go back to,” said Kamanaoio Gomes.

Gomes was released from the jail the day after the first riot broke out in March. Aside from broken phones and inmates being underfed, he says, the biggest problem with overcrowding is the painfully cramped quarters.

“Let’s just say someone is sleeping right next to the toilet,” Gomes said.

When it was first construction, MCCC was designed to house 209 inmates. Currently, according to state officials, there are 422 inmates being held there, and Gomes says there are often five inmates in one cell.

“You get up use the bathroom, you gotta kind of like maneuver around someone and ask the person to excuse yourself," he says. "Your privacy is pretty much shot.”

Plans are in place to ease the overcrowded conditions by developing a new housing unit. Lawmakers had already set aside $8 million for long-term improvements, plus $7.5 million for 32 new beds, before the riots.

The new units will provide additional beds that should help alleviate cramped conditions to meet state and national standards.

Department officials say that will lead to a safe, secure and humane environment.

“I think the only way for the facility will ultimately be improved is if it gets extended. They need to extend the facility and create more space," he says. "If you’re still sticking four guys in a cell all the time, it’s very frustrating.”

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