LETTER: State Inviting “Prison-Industrial Complex” to Hawaii
by Palikapu Dedman, Hilo
This past Thursday, (May 1, 2014) the Senate of the State of Hawai`i passed SCR 120 SD2, “Requesting the Department of Public Safety to enter a public-private partnership for new correctional facilities.” Introduced by Senators Will Espero, Rosalyn Baker, Brickwood Galuteria and Sam Slom, this resolution is the first attempt to invite the so-called “Prison-Industrial Complex” to Hawai`i. The resolution earlier passed the House with only three dissenting votes.
Ohana Ho`opakele does not believe the public supports this initiative. Why? Because it is a waste of the taxpayers’ money by continuing to fund a prison system that is not working:
- The budget of the Department for Public Safety for 2012 was $229 million; for 2013 was $233 million, for 2014 is $249 million. If you average that out for 6,000 pa`ahao (those incarcerated); it equals $41,000 per pa`ahao! The expense is just going higher and higher with no end in sight.
- A solution is staring you in the face. In 2012 all legislators (except one senator) voted for HB2848 HD3 SD2 CD1 which was signed by the governor into law on June 15, 2012 as Act 117. This act directs the Department of Public Safety to work together with Ohana Ho`opakele and other restorative justice groups to plan for a Pu`uhonua or Wellness Center. The Department of Public Safety has not done this.
The prison system is a broken system operating on the misery of the native Hawaiians:
- Whereas the population of native Hawaiians in the state may be 23%(?), the State of Hawai`i statistics show 41% of the incarcerated are native Hawaiian. Dr. RaeDeen Keahiolalo-Karasuda’s PhD thesis, The colonial carceral and prison politics in Hawai`i, claims that “it is more likely that Hawaiians represent more than 60% of the prison populations.” This is an unacceptable violation of the civil rights of native Hawaiians.
- Even the Attorney General of the United States of America Eric Holder is working to change the prison system on the federal level. Mr. Holder announced on Aug. 12, 2013 new policies on mandatory minimum sentences as a measure to reduce the prison population. This was part of a “Smart on Crime: Reforming The Criminal Justice System for the 21st century.” Mr. Holder added that the USA is warehousing the most vulnerable members of our society.
- The Pu`uhonua is an answer to deal with the disproportionate number of native Hawaiians in the prison system in Hawai`i.
This resolution “smells” like the PLDC (Public Land Development Corporation) but directed to one issue, that of building prisons. The public testified overwhelmingly against the PLDC in hearings on the various islands.
- The Kulani site on Hawai`i Island is on “Crown Lands.” It is land belonging to the Crown of the Hawaiian Kingdom. It should never be used to make a profit for private corporations building something that violates the civil rights of native Hawaiians. It should be used as a Pu`uhonua to benefit native Hawaiians.
- How shameful for the legislators of the State of Hawai`i to oppose the public and join with the state agencies in welcoming the prison-industrial complex to Hawai`i.
Nine organizations and more than 75 individuals sent in testimony against this resolution in its various forms. Yet the state legislators voted with the State of Hawai`i agencies (and one individual) in supporting SCR 120.
Ohana Ho`opakele applauds the three representatives who voted against the resolution: Representatives Mele Carroll, Faye Hanohano and Sharon Har! But why so few? The State of Hawaii has an obligation under the Hawaii State Constitution (Article 12, Section 7) to stand up for justice for native Hawaiians. Pu’uhonua, not prisons for profit, is the step toward justice that needs to be taken now.
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