HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Kauai Community Correctional Center (KCCC) is different from the other Hawaii jails: It doesn’t have a guard tower, and it sits alongside a busy road, Kuhio Highway, with no fence separating it from the Highway, just a ditch.
Old FEMA trailers from Hurricane Iniki are the first housing units from the road. The trailers have been converted into cabins for work furlough inmates.
While we were there during a Department of Public Safety sanctioned tour, some of the inmates mingled through an open area, walking past us, and waiving.
Others were in the rec area, walking around a small court. Some did handstands, others were singing out loud as music played.
And a few more of the men were seen working on the farm, digging the ground surrounding the okra and mountain apple trees that have never fruited.
The women have their own farm on a different side of the facility with cabbage, lettuce and tomatoes.
Both farms were wiped out during the historic floods last year. Anything on the ground had to be replanted with new soil brought in.
The farms are also open and easily accessible to the parking lot and street, but the corrections officers say they rarely have any issues.
That’s because the inmates who are allowed the privilege of farm work are minimum security, close to release or already on work furlough.
Inside the chain link fence and barbed wire are the prisoners who need more supervision, but even those let us walk through their dorm rooms and film their cells.
The facility has gained national and international attention, with teams from Japan coming for tours in just the last month.
KCCC does have it’s share of issues, it is, like all the other neighbor island jails, bursting at the seams.
The jail was designed to house 110 people, but was converted to allow 128. On Monday, the head count was 172, or 134 percent of capacity.
Still, the issues that come with overcrowding don’t seem to have the same effect on KCCC as it has on the other jails, plagued with rioting and high profile escapes.
“To see four men or five men in a two man cell. To see men sleeping on the floor or women sleeping on the floor in a two person cell,” Ken Lawson of the University of Hawaii Law School has been outspoken about issues surrounding conditions for inmates.
Lawson said the stacking of prisoners and pre-trial detainees at places like Maui Community Correctional Center and Oahu Community Correctional Center are the reason for all the problems.
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Plans are in the works for KCCC to get another building on the property. It will only be able to hold about 30 inmates, a ‘band aid’ fix because the jail will still be over capacity. But the corrections officers say, it will help.
KCCC is also getting a new sallyport. The key feature for the jail’s maintenance supervisor, Carl Braun, is the automated locking feature, “This is anti climb wire." The cage also has cameras and voice activation and will allow the sheriff’s deputies to drive into a secure cage for prisoner pickups.
Award-winning journalist and reporter for Hawaii News Now, including special projects 'The Case Against The Kealohas' and 'The Search For Peter Boy.'
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