East Hawaii News

Judge Rules for State in Lawsuit Challenging Kulani Reopening

July 23, 2014, 2:44 PM HST
* Updated July 23, 2:48 PM
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A Circuit Court judge today ruled in favor of the Department of Public Safety in a lawsuit challenging the reopening of Kulani Correctional Facility.

Judge Glenn Hara granted the state’s request for a summary judgment in the lawsuit that sought to force the state to include a pu`uhonua, a traditional Hawaiian place of refuge and healing, at Kulani.

According to the lawsuit filed by Ohana Ho`opakele, the state failed to include any discussion of a pu`uhonua in the environmental assessment prepared for Kulani’s reopening.

It also accused the Department of Public Safety of violating Act 117 from the 2012 legislative session which directed the department to work with Ohana Ho`opakele to prepare a plan for the creation of a pu`uhonua on state lands.

According to the law, which is scheduled for repeal on June 30, 2015, Kulani was to be given preference for the location of the pu`uhonua unless a more appropriate site was found.

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Hara today said his ruling was based on the same the reasons he gave on June 30 when he denied Ohana Ho`opakele’s request for an injunction stopping the official reopening of Kulani the following day.

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The reasons included that reopening the minimum-security facility was in the public’s best interest because it would bring Hawaii inmates back to the state from private mainland prisons.

Following today’s hearing, Public Safety Director Ted Sakai said he was gratified by the ruling.

“We feel we had done everything correctly in the first place,” he said.

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Prisons officials have said that Kulani’s operation will include rehabilitation programs developed with the help of kupuna, or elders, in the Native Hawaiian community.

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai. File photo.

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai. File photo.

“I do believe there’s a good reason for a program with Native Hawaiian values,” Sakai said today.

Sakai said his department is working with Hawaii Community College and the community to establish those programs. He declined to discuss specifics of the programs, saying so far only an outline has been developed.

Ohana Ho`opakele President Palikapu Dedman was critical of those efforts and accused the department of “hiding behind old Hawaiians.”

Dedman also questioned the credentials of the kupuna involved, adding that the state had rejected offers of help from those associated with Ohana Ho`okapele.

Dedman said the group planned to appeal the ruling.

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