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Shakedown search for contraband led to riot at Hawaii Community Correctional Center

The riot at Hawaii Community Correctional Center on Tuesday afternoon occurred after a shakedown search for contraband was conducted in a housing unit, the Department of Public Safety announced today.

Public Safety said in a news release that the assessment was based on preliminary information it has received, and that there is no indication overcrowding contributed to the cause of the disturbance.

Hawaii County police are investigating, and HCCC is compiling final reports on the uprising and conducting an internal investigation.

Inmates barricaded doors, broke windows and security screens, and set mattresses, plastic chairs and books on fire at the A-wing of the Waianuenue housing unit, where inmates are serving short prison sentences of less than two years for felony convictions.

Kulani Correctional Facility and HCCC’s personnel mobilized to form emergency response teams to quell the uprising using non-lethal means to subdue inmates, Public Safety said Tuesday.

Hawaii County police and state deputy sheriffs were called in to assist when the riot broke out at about 3:45 p.m. Tuesday. The situation was contained by 5:30 p.m., Public Safety said.

One staff member was taken to the hospital Tuesday night for treatment of minor injuries and released. Eight inmates were also taken to the hospital for evaluation of minor injuries and smoke inhalation. The inmates were cleared medically and returned to HCCC Tuesday night.

The housing unit was damaged by smoke from the fire and water damage from the activation of the sprinkler system. Damage estimates were not yet available.

“Stopping contraband from entering any correctional institution is a continuous effort that our staff prioritize to ensure the health, safety and welfare of our staff, the community as well as the inmates,” said Fred Hyun, Special Master to the Department of Public Safety.

He said the staff was doing its job “to eliminate a suspected contraband pathway and the fact of the matter is, the inmates don’t like it.”

PSD Deputy Director for Administration Maria Cook commended the HCCC staff for enacting quickly its emergency response plan and “bringing order to the module swiftly.”

Cook said Tuesday that all 25 inmates housed in that module will be questioned. Those found culpable would be criminally and administratively charged.

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