‘High tensions’ at Hilo jail because of lack of services, overcrowding

More than a month after a scathing report about conditions at the correctional center in Hilo, some changes are being made.
Published: Oct. 29, 2022 at 7:25 PM HST|Updated: Oct. 30, 2022 at 10:13 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Weeks after a scathing report was released about conditions at the Hawaii County Correctional Center, some improvements have been made.

That’s according to members of the Correctional System Oversight Commission which issued the report on September 2 and discussed their findings at their regular meeting.

“I’ve been to nearly 50 corrections facility across the country and I’ve never seen one in this condition, ever,” Christin Johnson, the Commission’s Oversight Coordinator.

The facility, like many others in Hawaii, is overcapacity.

The latest report from the Department of Public Safety shows there are 271 total inmates, the operational capacity is 226.

Johnson said that puts inmates and staff at risk, “You have four people in these cells meant for one to two people, so you have high tensions.”

A media tour allowed cameras into HCCC on Wednesday.

Our cameras caught video of construction on a $20M, 48-bed module.

But even when the module is completed next year, the commission said it still won’t be enough.

“There’s no source of hope for people working there and that’s what bothered me, they need a new facility,” said Ted Sakai, current Commission Member and former Director of Public Safety.

The oversight committee made recommendations after touring HCCC and said the corrections division did respond quickly, making some changes right away.

That included, talking to the judiciary to work on getting some pre-trial inmates out, especially those with low bail amounts.

Johnson said some had $15 and $20 bail amounts. Other were moved to other facilities.

Meanwhile, overcrowding wasn’t the only issue raised.

Construction on the new module plus the inside of part of the HCCC stopped in-person visitations and limited inmates’ time out of their cells.

Johnson said these were basic, federally mandated services that are supposed to be provided.

The commission said they would be issuing follow up reports and continue working with the the department to improve conditions for both the population and staff at HCCC.