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Small Protest Demands Protections for Maui Inmates from COVID-19

A small protest was held outside of the Maui Community Correctional Center in Wailuku on Friday, seeking protections for inmates from COVID-19 where an outbreak of the virus was first reported four weeks ago.

Protest at Maui Community Correctional Center (3.5.21) Photo courtesy: Julie Ohashi

The cluster at the Maui Community Correctional Center was updated on Friday to include 75 inmates who tested positive (43 are active and 32 have recovered). The Department of Public Safety reports there are 44 people in medical isolation and 211 individuals in quarantine at last report.

To date, 722 tests have been conducted at MCCC, with 643 returned as negative and four were inconclusive.

State officials say one MCCC employee also reported a positive result from independent testing.

The department reports that COVID-19 testing is continuously being conducted statewide at all facilities and all other facility inmate populations in Hawaiʻi are clear of the virus.

Protest at Maui Community Correctional Center (3.5.21) Photo courtesy: Julie Ohashi

Organizers say the protest included participation from concerned community members and loved ones of inmates who are demanding “immediate improved protections to prevent further COVID19 spread.”

Among the demands made include: providing “adequate” medical care; ensuring that there is no intermingling of COVID-19 positive inmates with suspected cases; enforcing mask wearing for inmates; provide new masks everyday for inmates or two cloth masks per inmate so they can wash and reuse them; and keeping those exposed to COVID-19 quarantined in a separate location from confirmed cases. The group is also seeking assurances of proper spacing at the facility within sleeping quarters is followed.

  • (A complete list of demands is available by scrolling down to the bottom of this article).

County officials said the state Department of Health is following standard protocol with contact tracing and quarantine isolation.

Maui Community Correctional Center mass testing. PC: Hawai’i Department of Public Safety.

Toni Schwartz, a spokesperson with the state Department of Public Safety responded to Maui Now’s request for comment saying:

“The Department of Public Safety is aware of the concerns expressed by the families and that is why the Maui Community Correctional Center security and medical staff are working long hours to safeguard the staff and inmates and mitigate virus spread.”

She continued saying, “The facility health care staff are monitoring inmates for symptoms, taking temperatures, and making health checks at least twice a day. All offenders have also been told if they have any pains or symptoms of an upper respiratory illness to report it immediately to the medical staff. If it is after hours the facility will call an on-call doctor for a consult. No inmates have required hospitalization due to COVID-19.”

Last week, Mayor Michael Victorino had received confirmation from the Hawaiʻi Health Director that the Department of Health would deploy a second round of vaccinations at the correctional facility.

State officials say inmates who test positive or negative are placed in designated housing units within the facility and separated as determined by medical staff, as recommended by the DOH, and in accordance with the PSD Pandemic Response Plan.

“The facilities are following the PSD Pandemic Plan to medically isolate, quarantine and cohort inmates based on CDC and DOH recommended guidelines,” said Schwartz, who outlined the following precautions:

  • All offenders were issued at least two cloth masks upon entry and are required to wear them.   
  • Offenders also have the option of purchasing masks through the commissary if they prefer different brands or styles. 
  • All inmates and staff are required to follow all safety and sanitation protocols including wearing a barrier mask over their nose and mouth in inmate housing and common areas, frequently washing hands and maintaining adequate social distancing to the extent possible.  
  • All offenders have unrestricted access to hot water, soap, and sanitation supplies.  

“The PSD Health Care Division has gone to great lengths to make sure a comprehensive plan is in place to safeguard the health of all inmates and staff in our facilities. They developed a comprehensive pandemic response plan for all facilities, based upon current guidance from the CDC and approved by the Office of Correctional Health of the American Correctional Association,” Schwartz said in a statement.

According to Schwartz, “Each facility has adapted the plan to meet their individual facility needs. Each facility has situations they deal with that are unique to their facility, and the administration at those facilities takes that into consideration as they execute their plans to the best of their ability.”

The complete list of demands as outlined by organizers of the demonstration are included below:

  • Immediate medical isolation of confirmed or suspected COVID19 cases with proper medical attention; sick COVID+ inmates are not receiving adequate medical care.
  • Quarantine all newly admitted and those who had close contacts of COVID19. Immediately cease the intermingling of COVID+ inmates with suspected cases and the general population NOW.
  • Staff must wear masks at all times and enforce mask wearing of inmates.
  • Staff must be tested on a regular basis and medically screened before coming on shift.
  • New masks everyday for inmates or two cloth masks/inmate so they can wash/reuse. Proper PPE (gloves & n95 masks) for laundry workers following proper mask cleaning protocol. 
  • MCCC must abide by CDC guidelines that includes: “Confirmed cases must be housed in a well ventilated room with solid walls and a solid door that closes fully and separately from suspected cases”; and Those exposed to COVID-19 must be quarantined separate from confirmed cases 
  • MCC must follow the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission’s cohorting requirements including: Bunks must be at least 6 feet apart, double bunks have only one occupant; and consideration of medical isolation and quarantine of cases who have a higher risk of severe illness from COVID-19 (i.e., elders, schizophrenics, etc.)
  • Accountability – Victorio must allocate funds to bring the Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission into MCCC to ensure they start following the state & CDC’s protocol.
  • Transparency- prompt sharing of accurate data on MCCC covid infections. 

Original source: https://mauinow.com/2021/03/06/small-protest-demands-protections-for-maui-inmates-from-covid-19/

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