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Juvenile detention workers say conditions unsafe


Employees at a state juvenile detention facility in Kapolei complain that staffing shortages create unsafe working conditions.

They say they routinely have to work 16-hour or 24-hour shifts because of other workers frequently calling in sick, Hawaii News Now reported Tuesday.

John Taylor said he got injured while working a 16-hour shift when an unruly teen landed on top of him during a struggle.

“I slammed into the cement with 400 pounds of human on top of me so I hurt my back, pulled my shoulder,” he said.

Taylor was on his 12th hour of a 16-hour shift on mandatory overtime, he said.

Worker Scott Northup said he was attacked by a mentally ill boy at a time when the facility was understaffed.

“If you can’t make it a safe working place for us, how can I provide safety and security for the detainee, especially if I’m passed an eight-hour shift, if I’m on a 16-hour shift or 24-hour shift,” he said.

Staffing shortages created by workers calling in sick are also a problem at adult corrections facilities, resulting in frequent cancellations of weekend family visits.

The state judiciary oversees the juvenile facility for 13- to 17-year-olds who are awaiting trial or placement in mental health or drug treatment programs. Judiciary spokeswoman Tammy Mori said officials are trying to improve the staffing situation. The facility created 10 new temporary positions in the last two years in an attempt to address the shortage, she said.

“Obviously it’s unacceptable,” Mori said of working shifts that are 16 hours or longer. “It’s in very rare and also extreme circumstances where we have to have people stay beyond the eight hours.”

Employees will soon be able to wear portable duress buttons that they can press for help during an emergency, Mori said.

As of June 13, the facility has spent about $552,000 on overtime, more than twice the budgeted amount for the fiscal year that ends June 30.

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