East Hawaii News

Second Public Hearing Held on Kulani Reopening

February 1, 2013, 12:05 PM HST
* Updated February 1, 12:06 PM
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The state Department of Public Safety Thursday night held the second of its two public meetings on its proposal to reopen Kulani Correctional Facility.

As it did during the first meeting held in Hilo on Jan. 22, much of the discussion at the Keaau Community Center focused on the possible establishment of incorporating a pu`uhonua- or refuge-type program at the facility.

According to a spokeswoman, Public Safety Director Ted Sakai told the crowd of roughly 80 people that although he supports the concept of such a program, the state’s prison system cannot be turned into a pu`uhonua.

Sakai went on to let the various groups know that he welcomes the continued partnerships as they work out ways to add programming to the facility that provides a link to the Hawaiian culture, values and history, spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said.

Kulani was a program-intensive facility before it closed in 2009 and Sakai offered reassurances that that it will be again, but that the first priority is to open the facility.  The programs will be worked out after that, he said.

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The department is continuing to finalize the draft environmental assessment for the project and then begin the reopening process.

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The state Department of Defense Youth Challenge program is currently housed at Kulani.  Public Safety officials are working with the DOD to make sure there is a smooth transition for the program and the youth into a new facility, which it said is planned for 2014.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said it hoped to reopen Kulani by July 1, 2014 and begin the process of returning 200 inmates from private mainland prisons.

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