More than 100 inmates at Waiawa Correctional Facility are now COVID positive

Critics are wondering if DPS is even following its own pandemic plan as the outbreak grows.
On Monday, the state reported 103 infected inmates and seven infected employees
On Monday, the state reported 103 infected inmates and seven infected employees(Hawaii News Now/file)
Updated: Nov. 23, 2020 at 11:28 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - More than 100 inmates have tested positive for coronavirus at Waiawa Correctional Facility.

On Monday, the state reported 103 infected inmates and seven infected employees.

One prisoners’ rights advocate calls it an “infection factory.”

“There’s 50 guys in Waiawa who have been paroled. They’re waiting for chair to set the date. This is so worrisome to think that somebody has been paroled but is stuck in the infection factory,” said Kat Brady, of the Community Alliance on Prisons.

To relieve overcrowding, Brady says the Hawaii Paroling Authority is considering doing special hearings for parolees awaiting their release dates.

“They should be able to get out of the infection factory if they’re testing negative so that they can go home to their families,” Brady said.

This is the now the second largest outbreak in a state-run correctional facility.

The first major outbreak at OCCC swelled to about 400 inmates and staffers a few months ago before the state got it under control.

Since then, the department got a new leader, implemented new rules and conducted mass testing at more facilities.

Some are wondering what the state learned from the previous outbreaks.

“People are very concerned. Both the people who live in there and the families who are waiting for them,” said Brady. “I know at some prisons I’ve heard that they’re short staffed because some of the more experienced guards are saying, ‘I’m not going in there.’”

Brady is questioning whether the Public Safety Department is following its own protocols.

“Are they actually complying with the Pandemic Response Plan? I don’t know, and nobody can say for sure because nobody has been allowed in,” Brady said.

The Waiawa cases are also included in Oahu’s daily COVID-19 totals, possibly prohibiting the chances of moving into Tier 3.

“It’s disturbing and upsetting for me as mayor because I want to get to Tier 3. And when we see these spike in numbers at Waiawa, for example, it raises the average,” said Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell.

The Health Department is conducting contact tracing at WCF and the warden halted all inmate movement last week.

Meantime, 667 Hawaii inmates at the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona have tested positive. However, most have now recovered.

Those numbers are included in Hawaii’s statewide count but not Oahu’s count.

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