East Hawaii News

UPDATE: Officials Say Kulani Prison to Reopen July 2014

April 18, 2013, 5:40 PM HST
* Updated May 13, 5:24 PM
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The state Legislature has worked out a compromise to pay for the reopening of Kulani Correctional Facility, a Department of Public Safety spokeswoman said.

A budget conference committee reached an agreement on the funding Wednesday night.

DPS spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said the funding includes $2.4 million for fiscal year 2013-14 and $5 million for the following year. State lawmakers also have agreed to fund between 90 and 95 positions for the facility.

She said the current plan is to reopen Kulani by July 2014.

The facility’s current occupant, the state Department of Defense’s Youth Challenge Academy, is scheduled to move to a new facility by June of next year.

The state plans to eventually house 200 inmates at the minimum-security prison to reduce the number of Hawaii inmates in mainland prisons.

Schwartz said there are currently just under 1,500 Hawaii inmates currently being held in mainland facilities at an annual cost of $40 million.

Prison officials say reducing that number by 200 will result in savings of $5 million per year. The governor has said he would prefer that money go into Hawaii’s economy instead of being spent on the mainland.

Inmates from the state prison system chosen for Kulani would be those within two to four years of release. They would be considered minimum security or “community custody” inmates, the same category for those currently being held at Hale Nani, the reintegration facility for Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo.

The minimum-security facility located at the 6,000-foot elevation on the slopes of Mauna Loa was closed in 2009 by then-Gov. Linda Lingle as a cost-cutting measure. At the time it housed 160 inmates.

According to an assessment done last year, only minor repairs to Kulani’s 45-acre campus are needed to prepare the facility for inmates.

The $600,000 needed to prepare Kulani for reopening has already been obtained through the department’s capital improvement budget, Schwartz said.

While upgrades to the kitchen and electrical service will require licensed workers, it is anticipated that inmate labor will be able to carry out other necessary work.

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