Hawaii governor withholds funds for corrections oversight

Hawaii governor withholds funds for corrections oversight
Oahu Community Correctional Center

HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii Gov. David Ige has again decided not to approve funds that would have allowed the all-volunteer Hawaii Correctional Systems Oversight Commission hire paid staff members.

Ige declined last year to release $330,000 in funding to hire staff for the five-member committee, which oversees the state Department of Public Safety, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported on Monday.

The commission was approved by the Legislature two years ago in what was initially hailed as major corrections reform.

The commission was given the power to inspect and monitor correctional facilities, investigate complaints, report findings to the public and come up with ideas for reforms.

The commission was formed in July 2019, but it still does not have a salaried administrator to lead its efforts, the newspaper reported.

Mark Patterson, the commission’s chairman, told the Star-Advertiser that he wasn’t aware that the funding would be withheld again until the newspaper contacted him on Friday.

“I hope they don’t think that because they aren’t going to support us financially that we are just going to die,” said Patterson, who is also administrator of the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility and a former warden at the Women’s Community Correctional Center.

Ige said in a statement that he withheld the funding because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“Starting new programs doesn’t really make a lot of sense right now, considering the state of the economy,” said Ige, a Democrat.

The state is grappling with a projected $1.4 billion budget shortfall, which the governor hopes will be alleviated with federal funding pandemic aid.

The Attorney General’s Office had requested and was denied over $360,000 in funding for four commission staff members over the next two fiscal years.

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