If you read the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, Maui Now or Mauiwatch today (or read The Maui News tomorrow, when, presumably, they’ll get around to it), you learned that there was some sort of “disturbance” this morning at Maui Community Correctional Center. The above-cited news organizations all got their information from a Hawaii Department of Public Safety press release (actually, two press releases because the first one contained an error) sent out around 9:30 this morning–roughly three hours after the “disturbance” had taken place.
All the stories (and the press releases) are essentially the same: inmates in one of the MCCC modules created a “disturbance” at breakfast, but after staff “implemented crisis response procedures” it ended “peacefully” a half hour later. The number of inmates involved in the “disturbance,” the nature of the “disturbance” itself and the cause of the “disturbance” did not appear in either the DPS press releases or the subsequent stories cited above, though the press release did include a provocative quote from Hawaii Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda that hinted at the root cause which all the stories included:
We make no secret of the fact that our facilities are overcrowded. Our correctional staff immediately went into action to de-escalate the situation, maintaining constant control despite the overcrowded conditions in that module. They go through extensive crisis response training, they were prepared, and I couldn’t be more proud of them for a job well done.
According to the PPS press release, the module that experienced today’s “disturbance” has a double-cell capacity of 48 inmates, yet the current headcount is nearly double that at 81.
Prison over-crowding is a nationwide problem, given our society’s desire to lock up massive numbers of its own citizens (in California, it was even found to be unconstitutional). If that’s at least part of what caused today’s trouble at MCCC, then we should be asking why it doesn’t happen more often.
The DPS press release also stated that prison officials are investigating the disturbance, but don’t expect to hear much more about it. Not only is there no timeline on when such an investigation would end, DPS Public Information Officer Toni Schwartz told me, but the final report won’t be a public document.
“All investigations are considered confidential for security reasons as well as possible legal and disciplinary action,” Schwartz said.
When I followed up, asking if the DPS would announce anything once their investigation was over, Schwatz didn’t offer much hope. “We will evaluate if we can release information once we determine the cause of the disturbance and the investigation is completed,” she said. “It will depend on if there is pending legal action.”
Photo of MCCC: MauiTime