Staffing shortages leave critical posts unmanned at Hawaii’s largest prison

COVID-19 outbreaks are a contributing factor to staffing issues in Hawaii's biggest and most secure prison.
Published: Aug. 9, 2021 at 6:12 PM HST|Updated: Aug. 9, 2021 at 7:32 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - COVID-19 outbreaks are a contributing factor to staffing issues in Hawaii’s biggest and most secure prison.

Adult Corrections Officers at Halawa Correctional Facility are being forced to work 24, even 36 hour shifts to cover.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Department of Public Safety did not deny the excessive shifts that officers say they are working.

“Contractually, essential security posts have to be filled whenever possible, which requires holding over some employees to work longer shifts in order to maintain adequate coverage of the essential posts.”

But some of the posts meant to keep workers and the public safe are sometimes going unmanned.

Halawa Correctional Facility
Halawa Correctional Facility(None)

The guard tower along Moanalua Road and the one in Halawa Valley have been mostly empty the past couple of days because the officers are instead being moved to work in other units inside the facility.

The towers are there to prevent escapes allowing guards to watch the surrounding fence area from above said Shawn Colotario, the Union Corrections Advocate, for United Public Workers.

“Or prevent contraband from being passed over the fence it’s a direct threat to the staff safety as well as the public safety,” Colotario said.

HCF is allocated 332 corrections officers for the approximately 837 inmates. Of those, 64 positions are vacant.

Some 60 more corrections officers are out for various reasons, including workers’ compensation, military leave or sick leave. Some have COVID-19.

Colotario said the department no longer allows administrative leave to be used for COVID-19 issues, discouraging those who don’t feel well to go in to avoid using personal leave.

“The consequences is that mistakes will happen, mistakes will occur and it may lead to a breakdown in the safety to the staff as well as the inmates and the public,” Colotario said.

The statement from public safety said the agency is working to fill the vacancies and that a new recruit class will soon provide relief.

The department is also contacting retirees to see if they would be willing to work part-time shifts.

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