Gov. proposes re-opening Big Island's Kulani Prison

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Public Safety Friday released a draft environmental assessment that proposes to reactivate the Kulani Correctional Facility in Hilo.  Former Gov. Linda Lingle closed the prison facility as a money-saving move in 2009.

The new plan by Gov. Neil Abercrombie's administration would allow the return of 200 minimum-security male inmates who have two to four years remaining before they are eligible for parole or release. The state pays Corrections Corporation of America to house more than 1,600 Hawaii male inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona.

The environmental assessment also calls for the addition of 96 required staff at Kulani, and details some minor repairs and upgrades around the 280-acre facility, including kitchen equipment and electrical work.

"This assessment is the first of many steps we need to take in order to reopen Kulani," said Public Safety Interim Director Ted Sakai. "We are not going to rush the process. We will proceed correctly, with careful thought and consideration for the community."

The next step is to invite community input. The public will have 60 days to comment on the assessment. PSD will conduct a series of public meetings across the Big Island to discuss the draft assessment and gather comments.

The proposed reactivation is consistent with Abercrombie's program called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative which began over a year ago. The state public safety department said the JRI strategy is a "data-driven" plan to reduce spending on corrections, reinvest savings generated in strategies that would reverse recent crime trends and eventually bring out-of-state prisoners back to Hawaii.

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