In an effort to improve Hawai'i's prisons and criminal justice system, Governor Neil Abercrombie announced today a collaborative effort called “justice reinvestment” to reduce the number of prisoners being sent out of state, lower recidivism and prevent crime.
The initiative is a partnership between the state, the Council of State Governments (CSG) Justice Center, the Pew Center on the States and the U.S. Department of Justice's Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). The state's Justice Reinvestment Working Group is comprised of state agency heads, legislative leaders, judges, prosecutors and police chiefs. The group includes Governor Abercrombie, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, Senate President Shan Tsutsui and Director of Public Safety Jodie Maesaka-Hirata.
“We are committed to bringing Hawai'i's prisoners home, and this partnership will help us develop a comprehensive, multi-faceted plan to see that this happens,” said Governor Abercrombie. “Justice Reinvestment will help us identify where our dollars are best spent on treatment needs that will reduce the likelihood of inmates offending again once they're released.”
The Justice Reinvestment Initiative has a three-step approach:
Approximately one-third of Hawai'i's prison population is housed in facilities on the mainland due to lack of prison space in the state. The state recently awarded a contract to Corrections Corporation of America that provides a short-term solution to house inmates in two facilities in Arizona. The state's plan to bring Hawai'i's prisoners home include expanding prison space in the state, creating alternatives to incarceration and reducing recidivism through community-based programs.
Chief Justice Recktenwald noted, “Hawai'i has a strong foundation to build upon. The Hawai'i Opportunity Probation with Enforcement (HOPE) program has been replicated across the country, and this will help us capitalize on that success by identifying ways to achieve similar outcomes in other parts of the system.”
Senate President Shan S. Tsutsui, Co-Chair of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group, said: “The Justice Reinvestment Initiative helps us as lawmakers to make better policy decisions that will increase public safety for all of the citizens of Hawai'i.”
“BJA is excited to make available intensive technical assistance to state officials in Hawai'i who have demonstrated an interest in using a justice reinvestment approach,” said Denise O'Donnell, Director of the Bureau of Justice Assistance at the U.S. Department of Justice. “Using this data-driven approach, leaders in Hawai'i will be able to identify and address challenges facing their state's criminal justice system in order to increase public safety and hold offenders accountable.”
“State leaders across the country are recognizing that there are research-based strategies for nonviolent offenders that can cut both crime and corrections costs," said Adam Gelb, Director of the Public Safety Performance Project at the Pew Center on the States. "With this bipartisan, inter-branch working group, Hawai'i has an excellent opportunity to craft reforms that will hold offenders accountable and give the state a better public safety return on its corrections dollars."
On Thursday, June 30, 2011 at Ala Moana Hotel, stakeholders from across Hawai'i's criminal justice system will gather to learn more about the Justice Reinvestment approach, including how it has been applied successfully in other states, such as Texas, North Carolina, and Ohio.
About the Council of State Governments Justice Center:
The Council of State Governments Justice Center is a national nonprofit organization that serves policymakers at the local, state, and federal levels from all branches of government. The Justice Center provides practical, nonpartisan advice and consensus-driven strategies—informed by available evidence—to increase public safety and strengthen communities.