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Tuesday, January 20, 2009
Stepping up job training of inmates on the Big Island
By Lt Gov Duke Aiona @ 10:33 PM :: 4473 Views

by Lt. Governor Duke Aiona

As a re-entry program at the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center takes shape, it is a good example of how our administration is helping to engage all segments of the Big Island and all levels of government in a coordinated effort to at least give inmates a fighting chance when they get out of jail.

On Jan. 14, the state Department of Public Safety opened the Hale Nani facility in Hilo, where a new re-entry program called “START” will provide education, job training and counseling for inmates a few months before their release.

START is short for Successful Transitions and Re-entry Together, and is one of many programs across the nation that are turning to education to reduce the rate of recidivism and to give inmates hope for their future.

As a former prosecutor and state court judge, I have seen first-hand the importance of increasing public safety by putting a stop to the revolving door of repeat offenders.

It is encouraging to see a powerful initiative with an educational emphasis that represents a shift away from warehousing inmates at the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center and toward preparing them for life after jail.

The spark for this program came from former Mayor Harry Kim and his creation of the Going Home Re-integration Initiative Committee, whose members are made up of numerous Big Island businesses and organizations such as the Hawai‘i Workforce & Economic Development, Big Island Workplace Connection and Alu Like Inc., the nonprofit organization for Native Hawaiians.

The membership also includes the Hawai‘i Paroling Authority, Judiciary, Goodwill Industries, and the Office of Social Ministries. Other partners in this initiative are: the Big Island Substance Abuse Council; the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo; and Soul Sisters & Brothers to Brothers; New Hope Ministry; MK Construction; Bill Church Painting; and Faith Against Drugs.

To build the site for this program, the Department of Public Safety secured $200,000 from the Hawai‘i State Legislature in 2006 and used “sweat equity” (inmate labor) for its construction.

Everyone is looking forward to seeing this program play a big part in the lives of inmates when they get out of the Hawai‘i Community Correctional Center.

All told, this program is about stepping up training of inmates -- a forgotten labor pool -- and releasing them with desirable job skills.

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