Inmates’ frustrations spill over at Maui Community Correctional Center
[NOTE: This story has been updated to include information on why work to replace some of the prison’s broken emergency exit doors, which was to have happened by Mar. 30 of this year, still hasn’t taken place.]
Everyone in Hawaii who takes a look at the news knows that the Maui Community Correctional Center (MCCC) is a powder keg. It was overload for many years, and at present more than 400 inmates live in an updated space to contain only 301. Moreover, the prison itself is not in perfect condition.
In September, we reported that the prison firefighting system has been a mess for years–And won’t be completely fixed at least until the end of this year. Some of the prison emergency exit doors are also broken. They were due to be fixed by the end of March, but that did not happen.
“The completion date is currently being revised from the original date due to unforeseen delays caused by one of the sub-contractors who ceased operations in 2017, ”said Cathy Yasuda, an assistant to the Controller of the State, in an April 12 email. “A replacement contractor was recently approved and verification procedures are underway. We expect to have a firm completion date when all reviews and verification procedures are complete, which may take several weeks.
But the prison’s problems go beyond even that. It sounds incredible, but over a dozen locks in MCCC modules just don’t work properly anymore. “There are 15 locks that require manual operation,” Toni Schwartz, public information officer for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety, said in an April 11 email. “The repair and replacement of these locks is in progress.”
Living in such an environment can be painful enough, but when new issues start to arise regarding the phone, television, and inmate food, tensions can boil over. This appears to be what happened in module A of the prison on the afternoon of Monday April 9. I first heard of the situation – which involved large numbers of inmates participating more in a sit-in than a full-blown riot – that night, but was unable to confirm its findings. details until today.
“At around 2:00 pm on Monday, the inmates of Module A at the Maui Community Correctional Center were asked to come to their cells for a count,” Schwartz told me. “The inmates refused the order and said they wanted to express their frustration with the telephone system, a damaged television in the common area of their module, and the lack of rice with some of their meals for the past few years. days.
The telephone situation seems to have posed a particular problem for the detainees. “The MCCC inmate phone system was in the process of switching to a new provider over the past week,” said Schwartz. “The phones weren’t turned off during this time, but the failover caused a software glitch that was immediately fixed. Inmates can use the telephones during their hours of telephone use. ”
Schwatz said the incident lasted around 45 minutes and prison guards were able to defuse the situation “by assuring inmates that remedies were already underway.” She added that the inmates “went quietly to their cells” and the guards did not use force during the incident.
“The security personnel were in control all the time,” Public Security Director Nolan Espinda said in response to my investigation. “The situation did not worsen because the staff handled it exactly as they had been trained to do it. They spoke to inmates, heard their concerns, and handled the situation appropriately and professionally. “
All of this may be true, but Schwartz also said prison officials called the Maui Police Department during the incident, although they did not deploy to the prison.
“Security personnel maintained control the entire time and resolved the situation,” Schwartz said. “Maui Police were called to report the disturbance, as per procedure, but were told the situation was under control and their assistance was not required.”
Either way, Schwartz said seven inmates could face possible misconduct charges for their participation in the protest. Charges will include inciting trouble, disrupting the performance of a correctional officer and threatening a correctional officer. Schwartz added that DPS officials are conducting an internal investigation and further charges may be laid against other detainees.
MCCC Photo: MauiTime