Honolulu, Hawai‘i: The American Civil Liberties Union of Hawai‘i (“ACLU of Hawai‘i”) has sent a letter to the Hawai‘i Department of Public Safety (“PSD”) urging it to take immediate action in developing a proactive, evidence-based plan for the prevention and management of COVID-19 in the correctional and detention facilities under PSD’s oversight.

People in jails and prisons are particularly vulnerable to outbreaks of contagious illnesses—such as COVID-19—because they are being held in close quarters and often in poor health conditions. The letter recommends PSD develop a response plan in collaboration with the Department of Health and highlights several critical issues that should be addressed, including educating people in custody and staff about steps to prevent the illness, provision of hygiene supplies, data collection, and treatment.

Legal Director Mateo Caballero said: “Under the constitution, the over 5,000 people under PSD’s custody across the state and in Arizona have a right to a safe environment and here that means having a plan in case of an outbreak in jail or prison. PSD needs to take appropriate steps to ensure that people under their care and custody will be protected and their lives valued during a potential COVID-19 outbreak.”

The letter was sent in response to the current COVID-19 (“coronavirus”) outbreak. Governor David Ige issued an emergency proclamation for COVID-19 on March 5, 2020. On Monday, March 9, 2020, the second case of COVID-19 was confirmed in Hawai‘i. On Friday, March 13, 2020, President Donald Trump declared the spread of COVID-19 a national emergency.