Jail visitations cancelled for a day due to staff shortage

No visitors allowed.

That was the case at two jails today. One on Oahu, the other on the Big Island, because they both didn’t have enough workers.

There are hundreds of jobs to fill at the Department of Public Safety.

The state is training people now, hoping to fill those vacancies.

“Is it something that happens often?” KHON2 asked.

“Yes, I am told it is a recurring problem at times,” said Sen. Will Espero, (D) Ewa, Ewa Beach.

Sen. Espero says he’s heard about jail workers who constantly call in sick.

“This is not a new issue. It’s come up a year ago, two years ago, four years ago,” he said.

People out on sick leave, and jobs that haven’t been filled, caused a crunch on staffing at Oahu and Hawaii Community Correctional Centers.

Visitors found out about the news by calling ahead of time, and by seeing this sign, and by seeing an unusually empty visitor parking lot.

The state made a decision to cancel visitation at both jails, which rarely happens at the Neighbor Island facilities, but occurs two out of the four weekends a month at OCCC.

“Is safety or security ever compromised?” KHON2 asked.

“No, that’s why the first thing we do is cancel something like visits, because we want to make sure everything else is good,” said Toni Schwartz, public information officer for the Dept. of Public Safety.

There are 200 job vacancies at the Dept. of Public Safety, and the majority are for adult corrections officers.

“It’s hard to fill a position, because let’s face it, it’s not a very easy job. It takes a special person to be able to deal, day in and day out, with inmates,” Schwartz said.

Last month, the state went through a heavy recruitment process for corrections officers, and now has 37 people on Oahu going through the basic training process, 26 on the Big Island, and more will be trained on Maui in June.

The state believes jail staffing will be in better shape once the 8-week training period ends and employees start their jobs, so visitations can continue as normal.

“It’s part of the healing process that the families and inmates need and also inmates with children,” Sen. Espero said.

The state says they’re also filling other job vacancies at the jails, including medical, mental health and clerical positions.

For more information, go to dps.hawaii.gov

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