State deals with bedbug infestation at OCCC

Bed bugs (File photo)

A bedbug infestation at Oahu Community Correctional Center has become a serious problem and inmates say the state is not doing enough to get rid of it.

KHON2 received a number of calls and emails from people who say the infestation is so bad, it’s not just inmates who are complaining, but prison guards as well.

The state admits it is an ongoing problem and it has done everything it can to try to eradicate the bedbugs.

An attorney KHON2 spoke to says if the problem continues, a lawsuit can be filed that can cost taxpayers a lot of money.

Inmate Gavin Bolosan says he’s been at OCCC for only three weeks and he’s already been overcome by the infestation.

“I got bit all over my body, my legs, my chest my back my arms,” he said. “Over a hundred (bites), and I’m constantly scratching because the cream that they gave me is not working.”

Bolosan says he has filed complaints but nothing has been done, so it’s a daily battle keeping the bedbugs out of his belongings.

“We have to cover our clothes with rubbish bags so it doesn’t get into our clothes, our food, our shoes, everything,” he said.

The state says it’s doing everything possible to keep the pests out.

“We have been using pesticides,” said Public Safety Deputy Director Max Otani. “We’ve been using heat. We’ve been using steam. We’ve even disposed of some materials that we felt was not salvageable.”

The infestation is confined to Module 20 which houses 120 work furlough inmates. The state says part of the problem is that the inmates are able to go out to the public and possibly bring the bugs in.

“(The state) has to provide a safe and secure environment for inmates,” said attorney Eric Seitz. “They can’t just simply say, ‘Sorry, we’ve done everything we can do.”

Seitz says he’s been contacted by inmates and is looking at possibly representing them in a lawsuit. Seitz says more than a hundred inmates have complained about the bedbug problem, so he’s looking at potentially a class action lawsuit against the state. Seitz says if a lawsuit is filed, it could cost the state thousands of dollars per inmate or more.

He says the state should do everything possible to eradicate the bedbugs even if it means getting rid of all the beds and furniture in the module.

Otani says they have thrown away some furniture and clothing, but says it’s too expensive to get rid of everything.

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