Ige selects Department of Public Safety insider to assess DPS in wake of COVID-19 outbreak

  • Edmund "Fred" Hyun (HI Paroling Authority)

In the wake of an outbreak of COVID-19 in the state’s largest jail, the governor has appointed the chairman of the Hawaii Paroling Authority as a special master to assist in overseeing the state Department of Public Safety.

A Tuesday statement from Gov. David Ige said Edmund “Fred” Hyun will continue to serve as HPA chairman while serving as governor’s special master. Hawaii Paroling Authority is a division within DPS.

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“Managing our overcrowded, aging, chronically understaffed correctional facilities is one of the toughest jobs in the state,” Ige said. “The COVID-19 pandemic makes the job even more difficult. I have directed Fred to conduct a top-to-bottom assessment of the Department of Public Safety and to work with Deputy Director Maria Cook to implement any needed changes to enable it to operate more effectively.”

Hyun will be assessing the operations of the administration, corrections and law enforcement divisions, including strengths and weaknesses, according to the statement. He is also tasked with investigating the concerns the unions raised about the department’s COVID-19 response.

Following his assessment, he will be making recommendations to address any areas of concern and prioritize potential mitigation measures.

Nolan Espinda, DPS’s embattled director, recently filed retirement papers and is on leave pending retirement.

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As of Tuesday afternoon, there were 291 cases of COVID-19 among inmates at Oahu Community Correctional Center, with 273 listed as recovered. There were also 80 cases among OCCC staff, with 40 listed as recovered.

Much smaller numbers were reported among other correctional facilities within the state. As of Tuesday, no cases had been reported at both the Hawaii Community Correctional Center and Kulani Correctional Facility.

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