The number of infected inmates and staff continues to rise in Hawaii’s largest jail with four more testing positive Friday for COVID-19.
Three Oahu Community Correctional Center inmates and one staff member tested positive, bringing the total there to 309 — 53 staff members and 256 inmates.
The outbreak at OCCC is the largest cluster of COVID-19 cases in the state since the beginning of the pandemic.
The Department of Public Safety said in a news release Friday that it received 181 inmate test results and of those, 178 were negative. Of two staff tested, one was negative.
Counting all Hawaii prisons and jails, 59 staff members and 257 inmates have tested positive.
Early in the pandemic, many advocacy groups across the country warned of the need to bring the prison and jail populations down for fear of outbreaks in overcrowded facilities.
The Hawaii Supreme Court has had ongoing orders to release defendants incarcerated for misdemeanor and petty misdemeanor crimes.
All Oahu inmate transports to court were suspended until Friday, and video hearings are being used where possible and legally allowed.
On Thursday, 13 Maui Community Correctional Center inmates and 17 OCCC inmates were released.
The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office sent the Honolulu Police Department a list in late April of 300 persons granted release due to court orders because of COVID-19. Of the 300, HPD reported Friday that as of Tuesday, more than 110 have been rearrested for crimes or violations. The total number of arrests is 130 due to some being arrested more than once.
Deputy Public Defender Jacquie Esser said, “HPD’s statement is misleading and counterproductive fear-mongering that jeopardizes public safety.”
The vast majority of people released through the Supreme Court process were not re-arrested, she said.
“Of those who were re- arrested, 80% were re-arrested for houselessness- related offenses, such as entry of a closed public park, or for violating terms of their release such as failing to call a probation officer.”
Public Safety coordinated with the Department of Health to conduct testing of all OCCC inmates. The first round of mass testing was completed Aug. 20. The Health Department is conducting follow-up testing in the coming weeks on all OCCC inmates who require it.
Public Safety said it is having professional deep cleaning and sanitization services done in several housing units where inmates tested positive.