Hawaii officials request $3M to house inmates in Arizona

HONOLULU — Hawaii prison officials have asked for an emergency appropriation of $3.4 million to keep housing inmates out of state for six more months amid a delayed upgrade to prison security systems.

The state has been paying to house some inmates at the privately operated Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona while the Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu replaces locks, video surveillance systems and other electronics, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Monday.

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Hawaii has spent more than $11 million to house prisoners elsewhere. Prison officials have kept a housing module vacant since 2016 to allow for construction, said Nolan Espinda, director of the Department of Public Safety.

Electrical and other work is completed in two of the prison’s four housing modules, a state Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said. The work is ongoing in the other two modules.

The upgrade will provide the prison with camera coverage of “all the nooks and crannies and corners that were dark spaces before,” Espinda said.

“The institution is 1980s technology, and the new system will have camera coverage over the overwhelming majority of the institution,” Espinda said.

The project was originally planned for completion more than a year ago. Officials now expect it to be completed in June.

It’s being overseen by the state Department of Accounting and General Services. The construction was initially estimated at $9.75 million, but the contract was adjusted to more than $12.3 million, according to data provided by the agency.

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The contract for the project was awarded in October 2015, and the contractor was given notice to begin work in February 2016, according to the agency.

Espinda told lawmakers at a hearing earlier this month that the project was planned to be completed in 11 months but work started six months late.