Update on Inmate Population Relief Efforts

There are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the prisons or jails. 

Inmate Population Relief Efforts – Federal Detention Center Transfer Request

Recently Governor Ige sent a letter to President Trump and HI-EMA Director Kenneth Hara sent a letter to the Federal Bureau of Prisons (BOP) asking for possible temporary transfer of select inmates to the Federal Detention Center (FDC) in Honolulu to help alleviate overcrowding during this pandemic. Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda also sent a letter to the FDC Warden requesting an update on the status of their 30-day inmate movement suspension, which expires April 13.

On April 8, the Department of Public Safety received an official response letter from the FDC Warden. The FDC has agreed to resume taking up to 100 PSD inmates, effective Monday, April 13, 2020.

“Further internal discussion and planning with the FDC is needed to coordinate movement.  We will figure that out together in the coming days,” said Espinda. “We want to extend our heartfelt thanks to the Ige administration and Director Hara for sending the requests through federal channels, and express our extreme gratitude to the Federal BOP and the FDC Warden for their willingness to assist us with this temporary transfer during this unprecedented time.”

Other Ongoing Inmate Population Relief Efforts

The Department of Public Safety has been following the petition from the Office of the Public Defender (OPD) to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court requesting release of certain inmates due to concerns of possible spread of COVID-19 to the prisons and jails.  We have received the Initial Summary Report issued by retired Judge Daniel R. Foley; the Special Master appointed by the Supreme Court to assist all parties involved in a collaborative effort to find a resolution to the issues raised in the petition.  We acknowledge and will follow through with the recommendations specific to PSD that can be implemented immediately such as:

  • increasing the posting of our population reports on our website from once a month to twice monthly;
  • providing additional suggested inmate informational listings to the OPD and county prosecutors for their due consideration; and 
  • continued sharing of plans and efforts to implement the PSD Pandemic Response Plan with the Correctional System Oversight Commission.

We will wait for further guidance as the other recommendations are reviewed and an implementation plan is created by all parties involved in this continuous collaborative effort.

The courts have already been collaborating with PSD to reduce the number of pre-trial jail detainees in custody.

  • PSD has been working with judicial partners to implement more video conferencing of arraignment and plea (A&P) proceedings and bail motions.  Video conferencing was implemented at all jails statewide. Video conferencing at OCCC, the largest jail, was expanded to five days a week for District and Circuit Court proceedings. 
  • From March 2 to April 9 there has been a substantial decrease in the jail population.  This is due to the huge efforts made by the State Judiciary, county police departments and PSD’s Intake Service Division as they work together to limit the number of people requiring admittance into the jails.  All decreases were pursuant to independently issued  court orders.

Inmate Testing:

  • The HCCC inmate listed with a pending test result was exhibiting symptoms of a respiratory illness.  The inmate was immediately placed in medical isolation.  Eighty-five (85) inmates in the Hale Nani Reintegration Center are quarantined as a precaution until the pending test result is received. (Hale Nani is in a geographically separate location from the main Hawaii Community Correctional Center location).
  • If an inmate presents with symptoms of a respiratory illness, PSD Health Care Division’s staff will perform a full evaluation, including testing for COVID-19 and common infectious respiratory illnesses such as Influenza.  
  • Health care staff conduct onsite specimen collection using the nasopharyngeal swab and submit the specimen to Clinical Labs for testing.
  • Inmates pending testing are immediately placed in medical isolation. 
  • The facilities have longstanding outbreak management plans in place to quickly identify, isolate and treat communicable diseases.  They remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Summary of previous update information issued through March:

  • The Hawaii Paroling Authority (HPA) suspended all parole hearings until the end of April.
  • PSD identified 52 inmates at the Halawa Correctional Facility and 5 at the Women’s Community Correctional Center who will be completing their full sentence between 3/28/20 – 6/30/20.  A list has been sent to the HPA for its consideration.   
  • All inmate work furlough passes and Hawai‘i Correctional Industries (HCI) outside community service work lines are suspended until further notice.
  • All non-essential programming is temporarily suspended.

(Correctional services such as: security, health care, food service, and facility operations/maintenance will continue as scheduled. Essential medical specialist transports, hospital and emergency transports will continue as needed.)

  • Enhanced screening is implemented at entry points, including no-touch temperature checks and verbal health screening questions.
  • Correctional facility entry suspensions include volunteers, non-essential program staff and personal inmate visitors.  (Attorneys and vendors/contractors providing inmate health and safety products and services are still allowed).
  • Increased inmate phone accessibility – Inmates are afforded an unlimited number of pre-paid and collect 15-minute personal phone calls. The personal call duration has been increased to allow up to 30 minutes per call. 
  • Free phone calls – GlobalTel Link (GTL) is providing two, free, five-minute-long calls per week for the next four weeks.

Health care staff have had continuous, open dialogue with the Department of Health (DOH), and facility staff are being briefed on protocols as the situation changes day-by-day.  

Staff have been reminded to frequently wash their hands and refrain from touching their faces, per Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)-recommended guidelines. Daily emails with the latest COVID-19 information, guidance and recommendations from the CDC and from DOH are being sent to all employees to keep everyone informed.

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