Documents obtained by MauiTime show that on Jun. 27 Maui Community Correctional Center and the Department of Public Safety were fined for two items deemed “serious” by the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations. The fines totaled $16,300, but according to DPS spokesperson Toni Schwartz, “the penalties were mitigated to $8,150.”
The citation regarded the fire control system at the prison, an ongoing problem since 2015 that was reported on by former MauiTime Editor Anthony Pignataro in 2017. The fire control system was scheduled to be modernized by late this year, but the citation items illustrate mismanaged implementation.
“A [Fire Control Supervisory Alarm] panel was deactivated or turned off on 4/11/2018 and was left deactivated or turned off until at least 4/17/2018. While the Fire Alarm system was deactivated or turned off there were no specifically assigned approved fire watch personnel provided for all parties left unprotected by the shutdown, until the fire alarm system could be returned to service,” stated citation item 1.
The second citation item stated “A [Fire Control Supervisory Alarm Panel] was not tested at least annually by persons trained in the designed operation and functions necessary for reliable and safe operation of the system.”
“The reason the central control panel was turned off for a period of 6 days was because it had a malfunction causing it to give off false alerts,” DPS spokesperson Toni Schwartz said when reached for comment. “The panel malfunction has no impact on the ability to sound the fire alarms throughout the facility. The areas have functioning sprinklers. Security staff routinely do security rounds several times an hour to monitor activity of inmates in these areas. At no time were inmates at risk.”
Schwartz added, “A service call was placed on April 13, 2018. The technician was able to identify replacement parts that are needed to fix the network malfunction in the central control panel. We are waiting on the parts to correct the networking malfunction in the central control panel.”
Yet, the Department of Labor and Industrial Relations citation confirms that the panel left parties unprotected by the shutdown, and the service call occured two days after the system was deactivated or turned off, with no dedicated watch staff as Hawai‘i Occupational Safety and Health regulations require.
MCCC, like many Hawai‘i prisons, has long suffered from overcrowding. A 2018 Hawaii News Now report stated that MCCC is 60 percent over its operating capacity, with 301 beds and 470 inmates. The facility was designed to hold 209 beds.