More than a dozen granted early release amid pandemic have been re-arrested
HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Law enforcement authorities in Hawaii have re-arrested at least a dozen people who had been granted early release from jails because of the coronavirus, Hawaii News Now has learned.
In an attempt to prevent the spread of coronavirus inside Hawaii’s jail system, scores of individuals are being released to help maintain low inmate populations. Their release was part of a state Supreme Court order, after stay-at-home and social distancing measures were enacted in March.
But Hawaii News Now has obtained a list of inmates who have either failed to uphold the terms of their release — by failing to show up for court proceedings or violating HOPE probation terms, or committed new crimes.
Honolulu police officials say they have even had to use the department’s Crime Reduction Unit to track down a few of the offenders.
Acting city Prosecutor Dwight Nadamoto says his office is not surprised and pointed out that they wrote hundreds of motions in opposition to the inmate releases.
Nadamoto says his office also wanted the addresses of released inmates checked, fearing many of them were homeless. “Because there’s no verified residence required, we’re not surprised that they’re reoffending," Nadamoto said. "A lot of them are drug addicts, they need drugs, food and money, so we’re not surprised.”
Jacquie Esser, a deputy public defender, said the need to ease jail overcrowding during the pandemic was a priority.
“It’s worse than a cruise ship, because people are getting on and off of it every single day," said Esser.
"It’s correctional officers, they bring it home to their families, their kupuna, their keiki. And it spreads to the broader community, so it’s something that has to be done.”
Esser says many of the inmates would have been let go in the coming weeks anyway ― not because of COVID-19, but because they have served their time or the courts were preparing to do partial closures.
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