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Swelling inmate populations prompt new fears about COVID outbreaks

File photo of inmates walking down a corridor at the Halawa Correctional Facility. (Image:...
File photo of inmates walking down a corridor at the Halawa Correctional Facility. (Image: Hawaii News Now)
Updated: Mar. 18, 2021 at 10:22 PM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Although pandemic rules to lower the number of inmates eased overcrowding last year, officials worry more prison COVID outbreaks could spread as inmate populations swell again.

Currently, Maui Community Correctional Center is the only facility with positive COVID cases, reporting 12 active infections.

But overcrowding remains an issues as the correctional centers on all four main islands are over capacity.

For example, Oahu Community Correctional Center was meant to hold 628 inmates, but now holds 888 inmates.

The state plans to spend about $500 million to replace the jail.

Max Otani, director of the Department of Public Safety, said, “If we had the space we would give them the space, but we do not have the space, and we do not have the authority to release inmates, so it puts us in a very difficult situation.”

Otani also said that only about 46% of the inmates who were offered COVID vaccines, accepted it.

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