Study finds Hawaii's criminal justice system needs fixing

Governor Neil Abercrombie
Governor Neil Abercrombie
Marshall Clement, Council of State Governments Justice Center
Marshall Clement, Council of State Governments Justice Center

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii's criminal justice system needs some rehabilitation.  After an eight month study recommendations include everything from more drug treatment programs to releasing inmates earlier.  The plan could eventually save the state $108 million, but not everyone agrees with the findings.

About a third of Hawaii's 6,000 inmates are kept in mainland prisons.  Governor Neil Abercrombie wants to bring them home.  But that won't happen if inefficiencies aren't fixed.  Some problems include delays in the pre-trial process, failing to put inmates in the proper rehabilitation programs and victim's not being paid restitution.

"It's a smart way of looking at it. It's not just saying here's what you have to do, here are the costs, bye bye see you later good luck, it's quite the opposite they recognize there are fiscal consequences to this," said Governor Abercrombie, during the news conference.

Those fiscal consequences will cost $7 million a year to pay for more probation and parole officers and victims services.  The plan suggests releasing inmates earlier because many are maxing out their sentences.  Researchers insist this isn't about freeing people to free up prison space.

"There is still more you could be doing in the way of increasing supervision, responding more swiftly to violations, and providing more drug treatment in the community.  To do that you will need more funding to pay for those things," said Marshall Clement, Council of State Governments Justice Center, who worked on the study.

The findings didn't sit completely well with everyone.  A main concern is putting the public at risk.

"The cost savings is not the bottom line. The bottom line in the criminal justice system is the public safety, ensuring the public safety," said Keith Kaneshiro, Honolulu Prosecutor.

"I share many of the concerns with the city prosecutor, public safety, public safety, public safety, we cannot forget that," said State Senator Sam Slom, (R) Hawaii Kai, Kahala.

"I'm the first to say the violent, dangerous and the ones that won't stop stealing need to be sent to prison but at the same time we can look at our systems, figure out ways to be more efficient and smarter on crime. So we always have to be tough on crime but we can be smarter on crime at the same time," said Judge Steven Alm.

It will take time to implement the changes although time is something prisoners have plenty of.

To review more information on the study click here.