Target: Ted Sakai, Director of the State of Hawaii’s Department of Public Safety
Goal: Renovate and revise Hawaii’s state prison facilities
Overcrowding at Hawaii’s largest state prison, Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC), is the main cause of inmate and staff injuries and deaths. According to the state’s Director of Public Safety, Ted Sakai, the overcrowding makes it harder for staff to properly separate inmates based on their needs. Less separation results in more fights, which puts more stress on corrections officers as well as more frequently putting them in danger.
OCCC covers sixteen acres of land and has 950 beds. Its official operating capacity is 954 inmates. Despite this, there are 1,208 inmates. Hawaii News Now reports that there are often three inmates assigned to one cell, forcing one of them to sleep on the ground. Many of the inmates are mentally ill or have other disabilities that make it difficult for them to live in these conditions, those of which exasperate their issues and make them a danger to themselves and their cellmates.
In addition to overcrowding, OCCC’s facilities are outdated. The prison was built in the 1970s and 1980s, and due to its lack of modern technology and equipment, requires more staff to operate. It costs 125 dollars per day to house a prisoner at OCCC. A private prison in Arizona that houses approximately 1,400 Hawaii inmates costs seventy-five dollars per day, a figure which includes the cost of airfare. A more modern facility equates to greater efficiency and less staff which “…means less overhead and admin costs…” says Department of Public Safety spokeswoman, Toni Schwartz.
OCCC houses both pre-trial and sentenced inmates. Although many of those jailed have committed crimes, it is not right for them to live in dangerous conditions. Being a prisoner does not make them less of a human being, and all people should have the right to safe living conditions. In addition, prison staff should feel that their workplace facilitates their safety. The overcrowded and outdated facilities are endangering lives and are more costly to upkeep.
In order to lower prisoner and staff injuries and deaths, the Hawaii prison system needs to update and expand its facilities. By signing the petition below, you will urge the Hawaii Department of Public Safety to address the issues with the current prison system.
Dear Ted Sakai,
You have recently stated that overcrowding in OCCC is a contributing cause of many inmate and staff injuries and deaths. The prison’s operating capacity is 954 inmates, and yet it currently houses 1,208. Some inmates are forced to sleep on the ground. These conditions are unacceptable and make it nearly unlivable for inmates who have mental and other disabilities. All people, regardless of whether or not they have committed crimes, should have the right to safe living conditions. Furthermore, staff should feel that the department values their safety.
In addition, OCCC’s facilities are outdated, making it more costly to operate. If the facilities were updated, it would be more efficient, and the likelihood of injury would decrease.
We are urging you and the Hawaii Department of Public Safety to better address the issues with the prison system. While finding a solution may not be easy, some action must be taken to begin to rectify these problems.
[Your Name Here]
Photo credit: kalihikahuna74 (Nahm Prik Pow or Fugu Khan) via Flickr.com