Closure of Hawaii island prison will help troubled teens

Major General Robert Lee
Major General Robert Lee
Savannah Taylor
Savannah Taylor
Clayton Frank
Clayton Frank

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HILO, Hawaii (KHNL) - The latest cost-cutting move by the state, will close the Kulani Correctional Facility.

That will add inmates to our crowded prisons, and also put nearly a hundred employees out of work by the end of October. But this shutdown could also be a blessing for Hawaii's next generation.

The Kulani Correctional Facility has been given a death sentence because of the state's bottom line.

"It is currently costing the department $6 million to operate and maintain the facility. Closing the facility will save $2.8 million, " said Clayton Frank, with the Department of Public Safety.

About 75 of the 123 inmates there are sex offenders. They will be sent to centers on Oahu to continue their treatment. But 76 corrections officers and other employees will be out of work.

After the gates shut for prisoners, they will open for Hawaii's troubled teens.

The Hawaii Youth Challenge Academy will march into the prison in the new year. Giving at risk teens one last shot at making a positive difference in their lives.

There, like at the Kalaeloa academy run by the Hawaii National Guard, high school dropouts spend an intensive 22 weeks working toward their GED and learning important life skills.

"Like discipline and learning how to control myself and my anger," said Youth Challenge Graduate, Savannah Taylor.

While young adults with the Youth Challenge Academy will head to the converted Kulani Correctional Center, the move is actually an effort to keep kids out of prison.

"If they have no means self support, no high school diploma, they would be Director Frank's customers in the correctional system," said Major General Robert Lee, the State's Adjutant General.

"What I like about this program, its not just the resources we spend. It's the lives we save and turn around," added Lee.

And while the experience may be priceless for graduating cadets.

"It is important cause after I graduated I think of life differently. Now I don't take things for granted," said Taylor.

It costs $16,000 per student to complete the program. The federal government will pay for the second academy at Kulani for the first two years. Then Hawaii will pay 25 percent of the cost. Which roughly comes out to the millions of dollars the state will be saving by closing Kulani Correctional Facility.