Public Safety director wants mainland prisoners home

Jodie Maesaki-Hirata
Jodie Maesaki-Hirata
James Tokioka
James Tokioka
Kat Brady
Kat Brady

By Jim Mendoza - bio | email

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - "Our department stance is, why are we going to pay somebody else to do our jobs?" said Jodie Maesaki-Hirata, interim director of the State Department of Public Safety.

The tough talk to the House Finance Committee was on bringing Hawaii inmates back from the mainland.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie promises they will return. But some question the cost.

The state pays $62 a day to house an inmate in Arizona versus $137 a day in the Halawa Correctional Facility and other correctional facilities and jails in Hawaii.

"That's a huge amount. That's more than double the cost. We need to find out what's involved in those costs and how do we streamline some of those numbers," Rep. James Tokioka said.

But some feel the cost comparison is inaccurate because the mainland figure is actually higher.

"The state pays about $13.5 million above that day rate for a law library, medical care, transport, things like that. So that's not included," said Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons.

The state spends about $61 million a year to incarcerate 1,900 Hawaii inmates in Arizona's Saguaro Correctional Center.

Maesaki-Hirata wants to put that money into Hawaii's prison system to increase space and improve services that prepare inmates to re-enter society.

"We can't just say, 'Okay, 1,900 come home today.' We have no programs out in the community. We have no space for them," she said.

She suggests re-opening the Big Island's Kulani Correctional Facility that was turned over to the Hawaii National Guard's Youth Challenge in 2009.

Some mainland inmates will return to Hawaii next month.

If the state's plan succeeds, more will follow.

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