New HCCC unit moves ahead

HOLLYN JOHNSON/Tribune-Herald file Inmates sit on their mattresses in the "fishbowl," the overflow area at crowded Hawaii Community Correctional Center in 2017 in Hilo.

The state Department of Public Safety has issued a draft environmental assessment for a new medium-security unit at the Hawaii Community Correctional Center.

The 144-bed unit, estimated to cost $15 million, is intended to alleviate overcrowding at the Hilo jail at the corner of Waianuenue Avenue and Komohana Street. Construction is anticipated to begin in 2020 and be complete in 2021.


The document says the addition will help provide a “safe, secure and humane environment.”

But it would not change the number of inmates. Rather, it’s intended to help HCCC accommodate the existing inmate population.

According to the draft EA, the facility has a design capacity of 206 inmates and an operational capacity of 226.

As of Thursday, the jail housed 392 inmates.

“HCCC houses inmates based on classified security levels using virtually every bed available and is one of the most severely crowded facilities in Hawaii,” the EA states. “Most of the facility’s support and program components are rated functionally and operationally inadequate to support the current population.”

It states that all buildings there need replacement or major renovation and repair.

“Furthermore, most of the support and program components were rated as inadequate or marginal functionally and operationally as they are significantly undersized to serve the current population,” the document says.

As an alternative, DPS considered building a new facility on a different site, but that would have been too costly and time consuming.

The jail houses pre-trial detainees and those sentenced to a prison term of one year or less.

The new unit would be located on a vacant northwest corner of the facility.

The expansion project is one of several planned for jails around the state, where overcrowding is an issue.

The state’s prisons also suffer from overcrowding.

About 31 percent of the state’s prison population is housed on the mainland due to lack of space, the EA says.

As of November, about 1,459 Hawaii inmates were housed on the mainland.

HCCC opened in 1975 with 22 beds. It expanded in 1990 and again in 1998.

The facility is located next to the original jail, built in the 1890s. It’s planned for demolition.

Email Tom Callis at

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