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Study: Half of the Hawaii inmates released early because of COVID reoffended

Published: Jan. 15, 2021 at 10:15 AM HST
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HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Months after Hawaii’s emergency inmate releases, lawmakers want to know if public safety was compromised.

Several hundred Hawaii inmates were released last year under a state Supreme Court order to ease overcrowding and prevent coronavirus outbreaks in correctional facilities.

A new study shows more than half offended again.

“It was a calculated risk on a very risky population because they were already in jail,” said Public Safety Director Max Otani.

The Criminal Justice Research Institute followed 108 of those released in April and found about 58.3% of them reoffended. About 17% of those charges were felonies and 3% were violent crimes.

The director behind the study said it was a relatively “low rate” for serious charges.

“Speaking of recidivism in relative terms, especially looking at the specific types of charges that people are receiving based on this data, they are less serious charges, and it is a low rate for the few serious charges that were included in there,” said Erin Harbinson, Criminal Justice Research Institute director.

The early release program was stopped in November.

“I think that a fair move that it has been stopped,” State Rep. Takashi Ohno, chair for the House Committee on Corrections, Military and Veterans.

State lawmakers say the emergency release of inmates shows the need for a new correctional facility to ease overcrowding.

“This is an opportunity to reassess the number of beds that the state needs, especially as we continue to have a conversation about the development of a new Oahu Community Correctional Center,” said State Rep. Sonny Ganaden, vice chair for the House Committee on Corrections, Military and Veterans.

The state has identified land in Halawa for a new jail but the state Legislature has not provided the money yet and the current budget crisis will complicate that debate this year.

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