HCCC inmates transferred to Oahu amid COVID-19 outbreak

  • A corrections officer watches the front entrance of Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo on June 1. (KELSEY WALLING/Tribune-Herald)

Twenty-eight inmates were transferred from Hawaii Community Correctional Center to facilities on Oahu to reduce some overcrowding at the jail, which is currently experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak that has sickened more than 200.

The Department of Public Safety transferred the 28 inmates from the Hilo jail to the Halawa Correctional Facility (HCF) and Women’s Community Correctional Center (WCCC) on Oahu via two chartered flight Wednesday afternoon, the department said. The transports occurred without incident.

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Of the 28 who flew to Oahu, 18 are sentenced felons who were scheduled to be transferred to HCF, three sentenced felons went to WCCC, and seven are pre-trial felons who are being held temporarily at HCF. The seven will return to HCCC once the outbreak there has been mitigated. An additional six sentenced inmates were also transferred to Kulani Correctional Facility.

“We have made no secret of the fact that our jails, especially HCCC, are overcrowded. The COVID-19 pandemic adds an extra burden to these facilities,” said Max Otani, PSD director. “We have been looking at options to temporarily free up some space at the Big Island jail. PSD expedited an agreement with a private charter to fly inmates who were medically cleared of COVID to Oahu, so that HCCC now has a little more space to medically isolate, quarantine and cohort inmates.” Only inmates who have been vaccinated, and/or tested negative prior to transport, and deemed medically cleared to travel, were considered. The newly admitted inmates on Oahu will remain in quarantine until cleared.

Meanwhile Wednesday, the department announced one additional inmate had tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total number of inmates infected with coronavirus since the start of the outbreak May 24 to 204. Seventeen of the cases were among staff, bringing the total outbreak to 221.

To date, 124 inmates and 13 staff members have recovered. One inmate who tested positive was released May 26 after serving their full term.

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Two positive cases were first reported at the Hilo jail on May 24 prompting the facility to implement its pandemic protocol status, which calls for a facility-wide quarantine of all inmate housing and suspending inmate movement going out of the facility.

Hawaii Community Correctional Center, as of its last population report issued June 7, housed 344 inmates, which exceeded operational capacity by 118 persons.

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