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Hawaiʻi federal prison workers protest staffing shortages, lack of COVID-19 testing option

Federal Detention Center, Honolulu
Wikimedia Commons
Federal Detention Center, Honolulu

Local federal prison workers joined their national counterparts Friday in protesting staffing shortages, and a lack of options to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Noni Ahulau is one of about 140 employees at the Honolulu Federal Detention Center.

Ahulau says the local facility is understaffed by about two-thirds, which means nonofficer employees must serve as correctional officers. She says while workers understand this requirement, it hurts other operations of the detention center.

"So if a nurse is constantly being pulled, how are we giving the inmates what they need? How is education being passed on? How is our mental health services being passed on? How is the food getting done if we’re all being augmented to these other posts?" she said.

Ahulau says the union wants to discuss staffing issues as well as options to the COVID-19 vaccine such as regular testing for those who do not want to get vaccinated. But she says the Federal Bureau of Prisons has been unresponsive both on the national and local level.

The BOP did not respond to a request for comment.

Scott Kim was a news editor at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
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