Hawaii inmates help themselves and the community - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Hawaii inmates help themselves and the community by building playgrounds

Jess Ridao Jess Ridao
Matthew Kaneshiro Matthew Kaneshiro

By Paul Drewes - bio | email

HONOLULU (KHNL) - It's a unique business venture in Hawaii. One that pays its workers next to nothing. And yet, many still sign up for a job and a chance to make a difference in our community.

They do the jobs no one else wants, you may have seen them picking up trash along our highways. All at pay so low, many would considered it criminal. And it is, as criminals are the ones working to once again be productive members of society.

Jess Ridao has spent years working in the construction industry, but now he spends his time putting together play grounds for schools across the state. But he's doing more than just working, he's also doing time. A stolen car landed him in jail four years ago. Now, he's working his way back into society, one school project at a time.

"I'm out here working during the whole day, then I go there to sleep. Its like I'm practically out already, it's a beautiful feeling," said the Maui resident.

He is just one of four inmates putting together a playground. A much needed one at Kauluwela Elementary, where students have been without a playground of their own for over 12 years.

It is just one of a dozen schools getting new playgrounds built using labor from Hawaii's prisons.

Inmates working on this or other outside projects with Hawaii Correctional Industries make 50 cents an hour. But they also get something more important than money.

"Its just a great feeling to give back to the community, especially the children of Hawaii, said Ridao."

This project also helps inmates brush up on skills they'll need, once they leave the prison system and start looking for work in the real world.

And that is the purpose of Hawaii Correctional Industries.

"We believe in them so much that we give them job skills. So when they go back into the real world they can find jobs," said Matthew Kaneshiro, an Administrator with the Correctional Industries Division.

All convicts have to apply just to get these prison jobs. Currently, there are just over a hundred inmates working in various projects, like the school playgrounds.

While convicts are eligible to work once they have completed necessary classes, sex offenders are not allowed to work at the schools.

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