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Concerns grow over rising COVID-19 cases at Hawaii jails and prisons

Updated: Aug. 10, 2020 at 5:30 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Public Safety confirms the number of COVID-19 cases at OCCC continues to grow.

On Sunday, DPS officials said three more inmates tested positive, along with two more Adult Corrections Officers. This brings the total number of COVID-positive individuals at OCCC to six inmates and three ACOs.

The rise in cases are causing concerns with prison reform advocates and those involved in the system.

“Prisons, jails are petri dishes,” said Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons.

Brady believes the cases at OCCC are just the tip of the iceberg because she believes the state isn’t testing enough inmates. She also points to outbreaks at Mainland prisons.

“The Department of Public Safety has assured me that their protocols are solid and I’m saying around the country look at all the cases,” Brady said.

Attorney Victor Bakke said there’s a high risk of spread in the prison system.

“It’s no different that getting head lice, lice or skin infections. You just get that when you have people in close contact,” he said.

“The hygiene there is usually horrible.”

The infections at OCCC come as several adult corrections officers at other jails and prison have tested positive for the coronavirus.

On Friday, prison officials confirmed that an ACO at OCCC and another guard at Halawa Correctional Facility along with two others at Waiawa Correctional Facilities tested positive.

The state has said the risk of infecting inmates at these facilities are minimal because staffers practices appropriate safety precautions. But Attorney Myles Breiner said the conditions for inmates at these facilities carry a lot of risk.

“You got one guy in a bunk, another guy in a bunk, and a guy on the floor, so you’re creating an environment that is bound to generate the virus taking hold of the entire prison population,” Breiner said.

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