Hawaii ACLU pushes state Supreme Court to release inmates to mitigate COVID spread

(Hawaii News Now/file)
Published: Sep. 9, 2021 at 10:05 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Hawaii ACLU filed a motion Thursday for the state Supreme Court to restart the program of releasing some inmates to ease overcrowding in jails and prisons.

The group said it supports the state Public Defender Office’s request to reimplement the program, which ended in April at a time when COVID cases were dropping.

However, amid the current rise in infections and a steady increase of outbreaks in Hawaii’s correctional facilities, the ACLU argues the court must intervene to prevent further spread of the virus.

The group added it is especially important as more contagious strains of COVID continues to circulate.

In their brief, the ACLU said low-risk individuals should be considered for release, which includes pre-trial inmates, parole violators and kupuna.

“As recent outbreaks have shown, our jails and prisons are unsafe, not only for those who are incarcerated and work in these facilities, but also for the community at large,” said Wookie Kim, legal director of the ACLU of Hawaii.

“There’s simply no reason to believe that the court can’t design another release process that will protect both public health and public safety.”

The group added that “no one, regardless of what crime they are accused or have been convicted of, should be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment.”

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