Power fully restored at OCCC after days-long outage that some called 'inhumane'

OCCC days without power, some call conditions 'inhumane'
Published: Jul. 11, 2016 at 3:20 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 12, 2016 at 11:47 AM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Oahu Community Correctional Center continued to experience electrical problems Monday, three days after the issue first began.

Although the electricity in the facility was fully restored by 10 p.m., a generator is still being used to power air conditioning as technicians work to determine the source of the problem, officials say.

The power loss initially cut the air-conditioning inside the facility, forcing OCCC staff to get creative to keep cool. Inmates were taking extended recreational breaks outside, and according to a news release, the staff was looking at other "alternative ways to cool down the modules".

Officials say the power outage did not compromised safety or security.

"Our correctional staff are trained for situations such as these. Despite the uncomfortable conditions, they are doing an excellent job providing a safe and secure environment for staff as well as inmates, and at no time has there been any risk to public safety," said Nolan Espinda, Public Safety Director.

But one inmate's family member says conditions like these make prisoners more agitated and potentially more hostile.

"I heard that the walls are literally sweating...just so much heat...and everybody is just breathing in each other's breath," she said.

The woman wanted to remain anonymous fearing retaliation against her loved one who is incarcerated at OCCC.

"The only real ventilation that they have is the crack at the bottom of their cell door. There's no windows, no fans, nothing. You have three men in one cell. One sleeping on the ground next to the toilet...the conditions I really don't believe are anywhere near safety or health regulations."

An advocate for inmates' rights called the conditions "inhumane."

"How could an air conditioning system in a prison, in a jail, where they know there's so many people...how did they not check that when we've been having really hot weather? "I'm wondering is this an 8th amendment violation? You are forcing people to live in this situation where the walls are sweating," said Kat Brady, Coordinator for Community Alliance on Prisons.

OCCC is working with electrical contractors to determine the cause of the outage, which started Friday afternoon.

There are 1,162 inmates at OCCC with a bed capacity of 954, according to prison officials.

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