State begins releases of 24 OCCC inmates under order from Hawaii Supreme Court

Roof of OCCC's Annex One
Roof of OCCC's Annex One
Published: Aug. 19, 2020 at 8:16 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - On Wednesday, the state began the release of 24 Oahu Community Correctional Center inmates today as the outbreak at the Kalihi prison continues to swell to more than 260 prisoners and guards.

The release was ordered by the state Supreme Court to ease overcrowding and contain the spread -- a crisis that is causing fear in the facility and is fueling calls for quicker action.

“We are getting a lot of calls from people who are incarcerated who are saying look I’m sick,” said Jacquie Esser, Deputy Public Defender.

“Adult correctional officers who work there are reaching out they’re asking for help. They say the conditions inside are just deplorable.”

The inmates being released are of those not considered a threat to the public. They also don’t include prisoners who have tested positive for the virus.

“They are people charged with littering, possession of marijuana, disorderly conduct, failure to appear,” said Esser.

The court has ordered another round of inmates to be released starting Monday. They include 450 inmates with felony convictions but not considered dangerous.

The outbreak at OCCC comes as the first inmate at the Halawa Correctional Facility tested positive for the virus earlier this week. That inmate was being transferred into Halawa and was in quarantine when he tested positive.

Prison reform advocates expect more to come.

“I think there are are several and we’re going to find more. I think we need to do massive testing,” said Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons.

Brady said she’s hearing complaints that some prison staffers aren’t taking proper precautions to prevent the spread.

“They’re going into the facility with their masks but as soon as they get inside they take them off. I’ve also heard medical staff has been seen walking around without their masks without gloves,” she said.

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