Legislature Passes Landmark Bail Reform Bill

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To address overcrowded jails and bring equity to our system of bail, on Friday, April 26, 2019, House and Senate conferees passed HB 1552 HD2 SD2 CD1, a landmark bill designed to take a thorough look at our system of handling people who are arrested and incarcerated.

Rep. Gregg Takayama (Pearl City, Waimalu, Pacific Palisades), Chair of the House Public Safety, Veterans & Military Affairs Committee, said the reform is long overdue.

“This measure will help create safer, smarter and more transparent systems of corrections and criminal justice in Hawaii,” said Rep. Takayama.

The in-depth bill will:


Establish a Hawaiʻi Correctional System Oversight Commission

  • The Commission is responsible for helping transition to a more effective rehabilitative and therapeutic correctional system, investigating complaints, and examining best practices in other systems.
  • Five members of the Commission will be appointed by the Governor, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, and OHA Chairperson.
  • An oversight coordinator will be appointed for two-year term by the Governor from a list submitted by the Commission.

Implement recommendations of the Criminal Pretrial Task Force

  • Expedite the bail process by requiring risk assessments and bail reports be prepared within three days of admission to a community correctional center (there is currently no time requirement on bail reports). This will enable the courts to consider bail with full information at the earliest possible time, reducing delays and unnecessary jail time, and reducing jail overcrowding. Adds a requirement that victims’ concerns be considered in pretrial release recommendations.
  • Ensure the right to a prompt bail hearing: require that a bail hearing occur at time of a defendant’s arraignment or as soon as practicable.
  • When bail is allowed, require it be set under the least restrictive conditions required to ensure a defendant’s appearance and to protect the public. Bail shall be set in a reasonable amount, with consideration of offense alleged, possible punishment upon conviction, and the defendant’s financial circumstances.
  • Allow for posting of bail 7 days a week at police, law enforcement, and community correctional centers.
  • Require community correctional centers to review pretrial detainees at least every three months to reassess whether detainees should remain in custody or if a change in circumstances have rendered detainees eligible for pretrial release.

Establishes a Criminal Justice Institute within the office of the Chief Justice

  • The institute will monitor the success of changes implemented as a result of the Task Force’s recommendations, conduct ongoing research on national best practices in criminal justice policy and procedure, and develop outcome measures and recommend further reforms.
  • It will also create a centralized statewide criminal pretrial justice data reporting/collection system to allow for better evaluation of reforms and inform policy and procedural changes in the future.
  • The institute is to be overseen by a board of directors consisting of the Chief Justice or designee, a Governor’s representative, appointees of the Senate President and House Speaker, and the Director of Public Safety. The institute director will be appointed by the Chief Justice.

The bill is effective July 1, 2019. Most bail provisions will be effective January 1, 2020.

The bill now moves to the full House and Senate for a final vote.

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