Lawmakers: Hawaii prisons are expensive homeless shelters

Lawmakers: Hawaii prisons are expensive homeless shelters
Updated: Jan. 19, 2017 at 3:35 PM HST
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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Prison officials told state legislators Thursday that about 15 percent of their pre-trial inmates are homeless.

But advocates and lawmakers immediately disputed that figure as too low.

The Department of Public Safety report says 86 of about 500 detainees said they were homeless.

But at a hearing of the House Finance Committee Thursday morning, lawmakers said the number was probably low because it relied on self-reporting by the prisoners.

State homeless coordinator Scott Morishige agreed the 15 percent estimate was probably too low and prison reform advocate Demont Conner estimated the number of homeless detainees was closer to 50 percent.

Finance Committee member Jarrett Keokalole said the jail has become an expensive homeless shelter. Another member pointed out that it is cheaper to send someone to college on the Mainland than to house an inmate at Oahu Community Correctional Center for a year.

Lawmakers said dealing with homeless prisoners should be part of the state homeless strategy.

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