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Maui jail staff describe actions and fear during riot

  • COURTESY OF THE DEPT. OF PUBLIC SAFETY

    The aftermath of a March 11 riot is shown at Maui Community Correctional Center.

A March 11 riot at a Maui jail left staff “scared for our lives,” according to a letter signed by the jail’s staff.

Maui Community Correctional Center employees said inmates set fires, damaged their cells and modules and “attempted to burn officers alive in the control boxes” during the riot at the Wailuku jail, according to a report Tuesday by the Maui News.

The newspaper says it received the letter Friday and was able to confirm the identities of some of the letter writers as jail staff who wished to remain anonymous for fear of retaliation.

“We took down unruly inmates, securing and extracting them one at a time,” the letter said. “Officers that attempted to carry out and save injured inmates were being assaulted in the process. Through the use of sheer physical force, less than lethal weapons and teamwork, we were able to regain control, quell and finally suppress the riots over a period of eight hours.”

More than 200 inmates from four modules were involved in the riot, according to the letter.

The riot involved 42 inmates and lasted three and a half hours, said Hawaii Department of Public Safety officials.

Emergency repairs are estimated to cost $5.3 million this fiscal year, which ends June 30, and another $8 million next fiscal year for long-term security improvements, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz on Monday.

Jail workers blame the riot on the department and the state, citing poor facilities, lack of manpower, incompetent leadership, insufficient riot training and growing inmate tension.

There are only about 116 guards actively working at the jail, workers said.

Thirty-two inmates have been sent to Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu for their roles in the riot.

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