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State lawmaker finds Halawa Correctional Facility understaffed during surprise visit

Cory Lum/Civil Beat

HONOLULU — Some guards are working 16-hour shifts because of a staffing shortage at a Hawaiʻi prison, a state lawmaker said.

A state senator highlighted the staffing shortage by showing up unannounced to Halawa Correctional Facility on Monday after hearing guards complain of unsafe conditions.

During Sen. Kurt Fevella's surprise inspection, he counted 58 guards when there were supposed to be 91, Hawaii News Now reported. Officials say there are 332 guards assigned to the prison, but more than 100 positions are either vacant or occupied by a guard on leave.

Fevella found that many guards are working 16 hours straight, with some working as much as 50 hours in a row to cover for the short-staffing, KHON reported.

The shortage is making it unsafe in the prison, Fevella said, noting that inmates are challenging guards they know are tired and don't have back-up support.

The staffing shortages have prompted cancelation of prison privileges including church, exercise and visits.

The state Department of Public Safety said officials are trying to fill vacancies by increasing recruitment efforts and making emergency hires. They are also asking retired guards if they would like to work part-time.

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