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Lack of staff cancels inmates' Mother's Day visits

Nine of 29 guards scheduled that day at the Kailua women’s prison show up

By Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 02:57 a.m. HST, May 13, 2014

Inmates at Hawaii's women's prison weren't able to visit with their children on Mother's Day because not enough guards showed up for work.

The state Department of Public Safety has been struggling with guards calling in sick and other time-off abuses that have frequently forced the cancellation of family visits at various Hawaii prisons.

Only nine out of 29 officers assigned for duty came to work Sunday at the Women's Community Correctional Center in Kailua, said department spokeswoman Toni Schwartz. "The 20 officers who didn't come in weren't all sick leave," she said, citing other reasons for absences including those out on workers' compensation, those taking time through the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, and workers who are temporarily assigned somewhere else to help with duties such as training.

"Holidays tend to be a little bit more problematic when it comes to staffing," Schwartz said. "We do tend to have more of a skeleton crew on holidays. ... Mother's Day just happens to fall on a visitation day."

But Keiki o ka Aina, an organization that helps families affected by incarceration, hosted a kids' day at the prison Saturday, where 24 inmates spent time with their children.

Schwartz said scheduled visits for two of the facility's four cottages were held Saturday.

"Most of them who wanted to see their kids got to do that on Saturday," she said, noting that some women are court-ordered not to have contact with their children.

About two-thirds of the facility's 248 inmates are mothers. It's the state's only facility for women and houses inmates with security levels from minimum to maximum.

"It's really heartbreaking," Kat Brady, coordinator of the Community Alliance on Prisons, said of Sunday's cancellation.

A family visit "provides hope, it maintains connections," said Brady, whose organization advocates for prisoners. "It's really sad to me because the research even shows visitation is a really good management strategy. When (inmates) know they are going to have visits that weekend ... they don't want to do anything to jeopardize that."

In recent months, staffing shortages have canceled family visits at various facilities including Oahu Community Correctional Center, Halawa Correctional Facility and the Big Island's Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

The last time visits were canceled at the women's facility was April 13.

"We know that visitation is very important for the inmates and their families, and do everything we can to facilitate visits, but safety is always going to be the top priority," Schwartz said.

Canceled visits at the women's facility haven't been as big of a problem as they have been for other prisons, Brady said.

"Usually we don't have that problem at the women's," she said. "It's really disturbing to me. I guess you could say it's quite a statement -- on Mother's Day we're not making that special effort to make sure moms and their kids are connected."


On vacation: June Watanabe is on vacation. Her column Kokua Line will return May 22.

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makahaman321 wrote:
Prison is called prison for a reason. Offenders need to know that there are consequences for their bad actions that got them in that place. The children suffer, but that is directly attributed to their parents-don't shift the blame to someone else.
on May 13,2014 | 02:49AM
lwandcah wrote:
Shift the blame to someone else? Are you kidding? These guys have a job and are supposed to show up to work. This has been going on for too long. Any holiday that comes up, you are going to have guys missing and it probably is the same ones over and over again. Like with the rest of the government (yes including and maybe most of all the elected ones) there is absolutely no accountability. At least with the elected ones we can still pretend that we have a say. As for the children, yes they are the ones that suffer along with the parents, spouses and the rest of the family and friends. It doesn't have to be that way.
on May 13,2014 | 05:57AM
1local wrote:
SA please focus an equal amount of time on the victims of the prisoners. How did the victims families spend their Mother's day. How are the victims recuperating from the harm inflicted by the prisoners. Prisoners should be making reparation for all damages inflicted and be billed by taxpayers for the cost of their rehabilitation and room and board.
on May 13,2014 | 03:24PM
HIE wrote:
makahaman321 is a prime example of a simple-minded, short-sighted type person. Of course prison is punishment, but familial visits are a benefit to society, not just the prisoner. Most of these prisoners will be released back into society at some point. Familial visits help them become more likely to assimilate successfully back in to society, lessening the likelihood of re-offense. Prison, in and of itself, is not a great deterrent (visits or no visits). Also, the children a part of society. These visits help them keep a positive outlook on life and lessen their likelihood of becoming an offender themselves. It's not solely about "blame". It's about what's best for the rest of us (society) as well.
on May 13,2014 | 08:15AM
joseph007 wrote:
Shift the jobs to a private contractor and lose the 21 sick days and 21 vacation days. Show up or get another job. Oh, and maybe hire some decent people who don't run drugs into the prison.
on May 13,2014 | 08:18AM
Kumukai14 wrote:
on May 13,2014 | 02:16PM
serious wrote:
Mother's Day just happens to fall on a visitation day?? Yes, it has been on Sundays forever--plan ahead. That many people off doesn't make sense. If the prison can operate with 1/3 of the staff maybe they are over manned?
on May 13,2014 | 04:34AM
cigaripo wrote:
We the taxpayers are the big losers, these workers are being paid to stay home. 60% no show ? It's abuse of the system and makes it bad for the ones who really need the time off. Why give support to these workers who realistically is taking money out of our pockets ....no work and still getting pay? This make a good case for privatization, since the Union and State can't get these workers in line.
on May 13,2014 | 05:20AM
salsacoquibx wrote:
I have union folks under me and they will tell you its not my job to make it right, but then your handcuffed from doing your job. I wish we would go and privatized to get rid of the bad and keep the good, but oh well such is this state and that won't happen.
on May 13,2014 | 05:39AM
Grimbold wrote:
Privatize the prison already. Taxpayers get abused with the present system.
on May 13,2014 | 05:50AM
Kumukai14 wrote:
Totally Agree
on May 13,2014 | 02:17PM
salsacoquibx wrote:
so were suppose to feel sorry and the answer is why? You as the parent shouldn't of put yourself in that situation in the first place..prison is prison
on May 13,2014 | 05:35AM
Grimbold wrote:
Good role models these women are. Monkey see monkey do.
on May 13,2014 | 05:51AM
Windwardite wrote:
Why punish the children? Privatize the prison system, so we don't run into these kind of situations. For now........make any "sick" worker provide a doctor's note.
on May 13,2014 | 06:05AM
Kumukai14 wrote:
Agree. But they stay home just "under" the alotted days, so they dont have to bring a note.
on May 13,2014 | 02:20PM
kwensel wrote:
Why are guys on workman comp scheduled to work?. I think the people in charge should be replaced rather than make excuses like it happened to fall on a sunday or at least they got to visit on Saturday. Hey Abercombie You want to bring home more inmates staff your prisons with reliable supervisors and guards first. Just a thought we are still paddling your canoe but I don't see you in it.
on May 13,2014 | 06:46AM
loquaciousone wrote:
Staff members are mothers themselves or have mothers so why should someone who couldn't follow the rules in the first place have precedent over those that do?
on May 13,2014 | 06:51AM
lwandcah wrote:
Because it's their job, that's why. If you aren't going to be available to work when you are scheduled, get another job. There are responsible people that work on Christmas, New Years, their birthday, and any other excuse you can come up with. They need to do away with sick leave. In construction (yes I am talking union shops) there is no sick leave, you don't work, you don't get paid. Do it often enough and you will find yourself out of work and no unemployment because you were released for cause.
on May 13,2014 | 07:51AM
loquaciousone wrote:
I commend you for never having to take a day off in your life. Exceptions like you are rare and your boss must be really satisfied with your work. By the way, does he know what you do on the clock?
on May 13,2014 | 08:12AM
lwandcah wrote:
9 out of 29 showed up for work, are you serious? As for my work, you have absolutely no idea what you are talking about.
on May 13,2014 | 12:11PM
gwanma wrote:
because it is their job.
on May 13,2014 | 02:13PM
McCully wrote:
Whenever these workers are protected by its unions, these are the problems you're going to get.
on May 13,2014 | 07:04AM
lwandcah wrote:
It is easy to blame everything on unions, when in reality it just come down to each person's choice whether or not to be a responsible adult.
on May 13,2014 | 07:53AM
ellinaskyrt wrote:
on May 13,2014 | 08:10AM
onoahu wrote:
The unions are enablers in this situation. If they weren't protected they couldn't make this "choice".
on May 13,2014 | 08:16AM
HAJAA1 wrote:
Nah. It's unions.
on May 13,2014 | 09:23AM
livinginhawaii wrote:
Some of the inmates are in here for murder. The children of their victims will never be able to have a mothers day visit. Please have some aloha for the victims by also including the reason why mentioned inmates are spending their mothers day in prison...
on May 13,2014 | 07:47AM
soundofreason wrote:
This story surfaced late yesterday and somebody else made a very good point. It was...."Did the mothers in the MILITARY get to see THEIR children on Mother's Day?"
on May 13,2014 | 07:56AM
onoahu wrote:
You're missing the point. The point of the article is not about Mother's day rights. It's about prison guards calling in sick on Mother's day. If you haven't been following the ongoing saga, we also have guards calling in sick on every Superbowl as well.
on May 13,2014 | 08:18AM
toobn wrote:
When you accept a job, you accept the responsibilities that go along with it. These guards are shirking their responsibilities, and are no better than the inmates that are incarcerated. In the business world, they would be fired. We need to change the system, demanding more accountability. Better yet, privatize the system, requiring a specified level of staffing that results in severe penalties if not maintained.
on May 13,2014 | 08:05AM
onoahu wrote:
I agree 100%.
on May 13,2014 | 08:19AM
Kumukai14 wrote:
on May 13,2014 | 02:23PM
onoahu wrote:
makahaman321, like many others you're missing the point. The offenses of the mothers is irrelevant to this story. The issue is that we pay the guards to show up - it's their job! They shouldn't be getting away with calling in sick on Mother's day (or in an earlier story, the Superbowl). Who is holding them accountable?
on May 13,2014 | 08:23AM
Kuokoa wrote:
...and the mothers in the military serving in Afganistan and other parts of the world got to see their children?
on May 13,2014 | 08:23AM
toobn wrote:
But they show up every day to work, and earn our respect. The absent guards deserve no respect.
on May 13,2014 | 08:41AM
FluidMotion wrote:
You want to celebrate Mother's day with your children? Don't get sent to prison. I have zero sympathy for these convicts. As for the prison guards with their chronic absenteeism; fire them.
on May 13,2014 | 08:41AM
den1718 wrote:
Its a typical situation with city and state employees vs private enterprise when it comes to sick leave etc. Studies have shown government employees taking alot more sick calls than private enterprise.Government can take a lesson from private enterprise when it calls calling in sick and getting paid. Time for a wake up call!!
on May 13,2014 | 09:18AM
bully106 wrote:
in general, there is poor work ethics in hawaii and the unions have much to do with it. if there are not enough guards for visitation, could that raise the question of are there enough guards to maintain security within the prison? enough with the flimsy excuses and fix the problem.
on May 13,2014 | 09:18AM
HAJAA1 wrote:
And this is news because..................? It is prison. Prison. Prisoners should have no visitors as far as I'm concerned. Society needs to get tougher and take back what is theirs. Poster HIE above is a typical liberal democrat thinker. I say get tougher. Maybe then, and only then, will criminals think twice about going there.
on May 13,2014 | 09:22AM
Schun1 wrote:
Bottom line - even with a union, if the supervisors do the work to reprimand and write up the employees, they can get them out....eventually. Employees should come to work when scheduled, that's their job. They should be held accountable, no excuses. Stop the blaming of the state, etc. running any facility or business is tough when there is never enough funding. AND speaking of funding I really don't care that much about the women in prison. They must have done something to deserve to be there as it seems so hard to get people convicted. So their children's suffering is their additional consequence. I am working and paying taxes to feed and cloth the people in prison anyway, public or privately funded. I'm supposed to feel bad? You take my time away from my children because I need to work longer to pay the taxes so you can eat. Nah I no like. Next Mother's Day and Father's Day and every holiday, just make it a no visitor day, and cut the staff to minimum. Then only the people who want the holiday hours will sign up and they will come to work. AND we don't have to pay Holiday pay for all the no show workers.
on May 13,2014 | 01:00PM
ski3779 wrote:
If these so called prison officials cannot stop this rampant absentees then get officials that can. Or, start having these prison administration officials start filling in for the rampant absentee guards. Once the prison administration officials have to fill in, this absentees by the guards will come to an end.
on May 13,2014 | 02:52PM
entrkn wrote:
Mother's Day for the guard's mothers takes precedent over prisoner's mothers, right men....?
on May 13,2014 | 01:03PM
dlum003 wrote:
Only the kids derserve any pity here, ONLY the kids.
on May 13,2014 | 01:03PM
alohacharlie wrote:
Another good reason to get rid of unions. If this situation can not be corrected because of conflicts with their union contracts, get rid of them and their union and hire a private company to do their jobs. I can imagine that there are plenty of folks out there that would love to have a job there and would show up every day that they were schedule to work.
on May 13,2014 | 01:13PM
ski3779 wrote:
I agree, if those guards do not want to show up for work, then let them go, get people who are more then willing to show up for work. Unions have no right being part of any prison. Need to find a private company that is not associated with any union. People think now days that just because they belong to a union they can come and go as they please. That is not right at all. The ones that pay at the end are the taxpayers, for these extremely lazy, prison guards.
on May 13,2014 | 02:48PM
residenttaxpayer wrote:
Canceled visits at the women's facility haven't been as big of a problem as they have been for other prisons, Brady said. "Usually we don't have that problem at the women's," she said....it not like it happening every weekend...stop making a big deal about it....the inmates and their kids will survive having no visits this past mother's day....
on May 13,2014 | 04:16PM
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