Super Bowl day: 30 percent of Hawaii prison guards out sick

HONOLULU — Nearly 30 percent of Hawaii’s prison guards called in sick on Super Bowl Sunday, state officials said.

Officials said Wednesday that while fewer guards took sick leave this year than in the past two years, the phenomenon remains an annual problem for the state Department of Public Safety.

Toni Schwartz, the department’s public information officer, said “curbing excessive leave use is a constant battle for all state agencies.”

Schwartz said the department’s jails and prisons still had enough staffing to hold all of their programs, despite the absence of 213 of 733 guards assigned on Sunday.

Sunday’s statewide sick leave total of 213 compares with 260 last year and 230 in 2016.

The state’s largest jail, Oahu Community Correctional Center, with 209 guards assigned to work on Sunday, saw 34 percent of its guards call in sick. That’s 72 guards out this year at the Oahu correctional center, compared to 78 last year and 58 in 2016.

Schwartz said wardens have made it a priority in recent years to think outside the box when it comes to staffing on Super Bowl Sunday.

“They ask employees for a verbal commitment that they will be at work,” she said. “They may lock down certain areas temporarily that aren’t holding programs and shift staff to help with visitation. The staff understands the importance of showing up to work and holding programs.”

Schwartz said the department will continue to work with the staff and the unions to find solutions to ensure adequate staffing.

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