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First Group of Inmates Arrives at Kulani Correctional Facility

July 21, 2014, 6:43 PM HST (Updated July 21, 2014, 11:18 PM)
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The first group of 21 inmates arrived this morning at the newly reopened Kulani Correctional Facility.

A reopening ceremony was held July 1 for the minimum-security prison located at the 6,000-foot elevation on Mauna Loa.

The rest of Kulani’s 200 inmates will arrive in increments over the next five months.

The prison currently has a staff of 56, with 16 more corrections officers currently in training. Another 19 positions are in various stages of recruitment, Toni Schwartz, a spokeswoman for the Department of Public Safety, said in a press release.

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The inmates will be provided a variety of vocational training including facilities maintenance, agriculture and other career training through partnerships with community providers and other state agencies.

“The Facilities Maintenance Program teaches the inmates important trade skills like carpentry, drywall, solar installation, and electrical and plumbing fundamentals,” Kulani Warden Ruth Coller Forbes said in the statement.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Kulani Warden Ruth Forbes untying the maile lei during today's ceremony. DPS photo.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie and Kulani Warden Ruth Coller Forbes untying the maile lei during the July 1 reopening ceremony. DPS photo.

“The inmates will be helping to maintain and upgrade Kulani while learning important trade skills,” she said. “We want them to leave Kulani as self-sufficient, productive members of society and never come back.”

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Schwartz said Public Safety is also working with kupuna, or elders, from East Hawaii to develop programs based on traditional Hawaiian values.

Kulani was closed in 2009 by then-Gov. Linda Lingle as a cost-cutting measure.

A hearing is scheduled for Wednesday in Hilo Circuit Court on a lawsuit filed by a group that sought to prevent Kulani’s reopening.

Ohana Ho`opakele’s lawsuit argued that the environmental assessment prepared for Kulani’s reopening was flawed because it did not contain provisions for a pu`uhonua, a traditional Hawaiian place of refuge and healing.

Judge Glenn Hara last month rejected the group’s request to stop the reopening. On Wednesday, Hara will take up the state’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit.

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