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Public Safety faces calls to pause moving Hawaii inmates to an Arizona prison

Updated: Dec. 6, 2020 at 9:53 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - One senator is demanding answers from the state surrounding its plans to send inmates to the mainland.

Senator Kurt Fevella said families of some inmates have reached out to him after hearing their sons would be transported to Saguaro Correctional Center (SCC) in Arizona this week.

Fevella said the Department of Public Safety’s lack of transparency on the matter has been frustrating.

“But nobody reached out to me, the new director didn’t and everybody that I emailed at Halawa or OCCC or wherever, I didn’t get anybody to return any of my emails when I tried to reach out to them,” said Fevella. “So, that’s the disturbing part right now.”

The senator added that he has been told over a hundred Inmates at the Halawa Correctional Facility are scheduled to be flown to Arizona on Dec. 9 or 10.

The mother of a Halawa Inmate who wants to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation against her son said he told her Saturday that he would be one of those inmates sent to Saguaro.

She fears her son who has underlying health conditions will catch the virus.

“I don’t understand why they’re even attempting to do this, why are they moving them out?” asked the Halawa Inmate’s Mother. “Arizona is not safe for them to be [at] right now.” According to the Public Safety Department (PSD), over 609 inmates have tested positive.

One inmate died after contracting the virus.

As of Friday, there are six active cases.

But one mother of an inmate at SCC said she recently spoke with her son who said the conditions at the private prison have not improved since the COVID outbreak in October.

The son said inmates who test positive are mixed with those who are not.

“I talked to my son, it’s getting worst, he’s even afraid to go to the cafeteria,” said the Saguaro Inmate’s Mother. “He doesn’t even want to go out, he’s so traumatized by this situation.”

Fevella joins families of those incarcerated in a plea to suspend plans to transport inmates to Arizona at this time.

“Just please don’t move them right now, until they can control what’s happening or lessen the numbers up in Arizona,” said Fevella. “To stop our family members to get sick and die.”

While plans for transports are still up in the air, Senator Clarence Nishihara, chair of the Senate Committee on Public Safety said it’s not a good a time to send any one to the mainland.

“And with the conditions that are up in Saguaro, with the COVID rates, as well as the ones we have back here, it’s highly unlikely that we’ll be sending anybody to there,” said Nishihara.

Hawaii News Now asked PSD about transports on November 20th and they said they started the planning for future charters, but nothing was finalized.

Hawaii News Now reached out to PSD Saturday morning, but have yet to hear back.

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