Official: Overcrowding, inmate woes caused Maui jail riot

  • STATE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY Common areas of the Maui Community Correctional Facility are still unusable after inmates’ March 11 riot.

WAILUKU — Overcrowding and numerous disruptions to daily inmate life sparked rioting at a Hawaii jail, a state official said.

Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda says his department is still working on its final report into the March 11 riot at Maui Community Correctional Center, The Maui News reported Wednesday.

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Espinada told state senators Tuesday that the riot was caused by overcrowding combined with irritants such as broken telephones that inmates use, reduced orders for their store-bought items and “no contact visits” with family members.

Espinada spoke to the Senate Ways and Means and Public Safety committees during a joint informational meeting at University of Hawaii-Maui College in Kahului.

“It was the conditions of overcrowding that was the primary cause of this riot,” Espinda said.

Module B, where the riot began, held four inmates in cells designed for two people, Espinda said.

Other factors included a reduction in recreation time, longer waits for health care and phone and laundry facility backlogs, he said.

Inmates destroyed sprinklers, set fires and broke cell doors, windows and fixtures, causing millions of dollars in damage. Inmates and corrections officers said they feared for their lives.

The final report will rely on interviews with inmates and staff because there were no cameras at the jail and no recordings of the riot. A project to install cameras was scheduled to start around the time of the riot, Espinda said.

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Sen. Glenn Wakai criticized the department for the lack of cameras and said he found the situation “astonishing.”

“To have inner areas of a prison to have no cameras in this day and age is just ridiculous,” Wakai said.

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