AG: New Law Calling For Return of Mainland Inmates Not Mandatory

Clayton Frank
Clayton Frank
Kat Brady
Kat Brady

HONOLULU (KHNL) -- Hundreds of Hawaii inmates who thought they could return home from mainland prisons soon are out of luck. Prison officials here say they won't follow a new law that calls for their return, at least not yet.

The state's prisons chief says right now, Hawaii isn't set up to handle the return of hundreds of inmates from mainland facilities.

"We would not have sufficient funding for providing the meals for these inmates, the clothing, medical services," Clayton Frank, interim director of the Department of Public Safety, said.

A new law calls for the state to bring prisoners back a full year before their release dates. According to the Attorney General's interpretation, Act 8 isn't mandatory, but provides direction on where the state's prison system should be headed.

"We will make every effort to put the necessary programs and other pieces of a comprehensive reintegration program in place so that we can eventually return our inmates home," Frank said.

"This is a philosophical change for the prison system, our correctional system, from punishment to rehabilitation and re-entry," Kat Brady, Community Alliance on Prisons, said.

As of last week, more than 3,700 inmates were being housed in Hawaii. With our lack of bed space, another 2,000 were incarcerated in mainland prisons.

"It would be irresponsible to bring back inmates without adequate housing," Frank said. "And it could place our inmates and staff at risk as a result of overcrowding, and further strain our aging facilities infrastructure."

Prison officials say they're working on a plan to create more bed space and set up programs that would help inmates re-enter society. They say it could take years to have a comprehensive system in place.