Maui Community Correctional Center lacks nearly half of its guard staff
Conditions at the Maui Community Correctional Center, where a riot broke out in March, continue to deteriorate.
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Conditions at the Maui Community Correctional Center, where a riot broke out in March, continue to deteriorate with an increasing number of guards not showing up for duty, leaving those left to work 60 to 80 hours a week to pick up the slack, according to two corrections officers interviewed by the Honolulu Star-Advertiser.
One officer said the situation has become so unsafe the National Guard may need to be brought in — a prospect a spokeswoman for the Hawaii Department of Public Safety didn’t dispute.
There are supposed to be 170 adult corrections officers at MCCC. However, there are as few as 83 guards who are regularly at work, according to the department.
There are 32 vacant positions and 23 corrections officers who are out on workers’ compensation. An additional 32 guards have been granted leave under the federal Family Medical and Leave Act that allows employees to take 12 weeks of leave within a one-year period.
“Guys are walking off the job. You are going to make a choice: your family or your job,” said one of the officers who spoke to the Star-Advertiser. Both requested anonymity for fear of retaliation for speaking out about conditions at the Wailuku jail.
The officer said the situation isn’t safe for staff or inmates.
“You cannot properly supervise all of these people,” he said. “Things are going to happen. Inmates are going to get assaulted. They are going to have their property and commissary (items) stolen. They are going to be sexually assaulted also, and we can’t see.”
He described morale among guards as “horrible.”
Employees warned supervisors that short staffing at the Maui jail was endangering guards and inmates long before the March 11 riot, which took three hours to contain and caused more than $5 million in damage. The corrections officers said the riot exacerbated an already bad situation.
“Who would want to come to work the jail after a big riot like that?” said the second officer, noting that inmates were found with 3-foot pipes and razor-sharp swords made from table parts.
“The place is not safe,” he said.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz acknowledged that staffing is a problem at the MCCC and that many corrections officers have been working double shifts, three to five days a week.
“There has been a longstanding struggle to attract qualified applicants on Maui, or any island for that matter, who want to work in a jail facility,” she said by email.
Schwartz didn’t respond to questions about whether the staffing situation has become worse since the riot. When asked if the National Guard may need to be brought in, she said “all possible options to address staff shortages may be explored.”
Dayton Nakanelua, state director for the United Public Workers, which represents corrections officers, said union leaders met with Maui guards several weeks ago to listen to their concerns. He said the union is trying to put together a joint labor and management committee to try to address the problems, which he said exist statewide.