Arizona Inmates Added to Kulani Prison Suit
Three Hawaii inmates imprisoned at Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy, Arizona, have joined a lawsuit seeking the establishment of pu`uhonua — a place of refuge and healing — in the reopening of Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island.
The nonprofit organization Ohana Ho`opakele filed the lawsuit against the Hawaii Department of Public Safety in August for failing to include pu`uhonua, a Hawaiian cultural alternative to standard prisons, in plans to reopen the minimum-security prison at Kulani despite a law mandating that pu`uhonua be considered.
“In 2012, The State Legislature passed Act 117 that specifically directed the Department of Public Safety to work with Ohana Ho`opakele in developing a plan for a pu`uhonua at Kulani camp and grounds,” Ohana Ho`opakele member Palikapu Dedman said in a written statement. “The Department has not worked with us to develop a plan, and instead has called Act 117 ‘an unfunded mandate.’”
An environmental assessment filed for the project in July failed to mention pu`uhonua, prompting the lawsuit filed in the state’s Hilo Circuit Court.
At a public meeting in January 2013, Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz said the department is willing to explore options for pu`uhonua at Kulani after the facility is reopened.
Ohana Ho`opakele director Ron Fujiyoshi said all three inmates who had joined the case had supported building pu`uhonua instead of state prisons before the lawsuit was filed. “The are native Hawaiian, local residents, and serving sentences imposed by our Third Circuit courts,” Fujiyoshi said. Ho`opakele did not release the names of the inmates pending a press conference on the lawsuit scheduled Monday.
The lawsuit alleges that the environmental assessment also did not address the impact of increasing the capacity of the prison to 228 prisoners, up from 160 when it was closed by Gov. Lingle in 2009.
Ho`opakele considers the state’s plan a “scheme” by the Department of Public Safety to expand prisons and prison populations throughout the Hawaiian islands, its statement said.