‘The tensions are very high’: Latest COVID-19 outbreak forces lockdown at Hawaii’s largest prison

Published: Aug. 10, 2021 at 4:56 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Halawa Correctional Facility has been on lockdown for the past week due a new COVID-19 outbreak at the prison.

A total of 48 Halawa inmates have recently tested positive and another 147 have been placed in quarantine because they are suspected of being in contact with other infected inmates.

State Sen. Kurt Fevella, R-Ewa Beach, said the failure to contain the new variant has prisoners fearful and angry.

“Some of the inmates are feeling they are not getting correct information on the new variants and they might die. So the tensions are very high,” he said.

The lockdown, which started last week, comes just days after the prison’s warden Scott Harrington filed a sworn statement in federal court, saying the prison was taking all necessary steps to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Department of Public Safety said Tuesday that its investigation found that the spread originated in the community and was brought into the prison.

“PSD is doing everything in its power to mitigate community spread into the facilities and will continue to follow the pandemic plan which is based on Department of Health and CDC guidelines,” the department said.

Civil rights lawyer Eric Seitz filed a class-action lawsuit after last year’s outbreaks in the prisons.

In court papers, he said some inmates who were recently transferred to Halawa from the Hawaii Community Correctional Center — a COVID hot spot — weren’t tested or properly quarantined.

“The wardens are frankly just lying and the state is covering this up. And it is time for people simply to be outraged,” Seitz said.

Seitz said that because of prison officials’ failure to prevent the spread, he’s asking a judge to appoint a special master to oversee the state’s correctional system.

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