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Monday, May 07, 2012
Marumoto: Mass Release of Prisoners not True Justice Reform
By Rep Barbara Marumoto @ 11:41 PM :: 4336 Views :: Energy, Environment


News Release from Office of Rep Barbara Marumoto

Honolulu - I have been in opposition to this bill, and I still am opposed to this measure. Although the Governor’s Justice Reinvestment Act contains some good features, I think this is primarily a cost-saving measure for this Administration and not true prison reform. Let me just mention the parts that I like.

First, and long overdue, attention will be paid to increase restitution paid to victims of crimes.

Second, bringing back prisoners from the mainland to be closer to their families.

Third, released prisoners will be offered more programs to help them re-integrate back into society.

Fourth, releasing prisoners will save money. Since housing them now costs $190M, any savings would be appreciated. And considering that we spend only $8,000 per public school student, we can prioritize the money into our educational system.

However, there are features in this bill that may be detrimental and even dangerous to public safety. This bill is based on recommendation of the justice reinvestment working group working with the Council of State Governments Justice Center. It aims “to improve the criminal justice system, relying on the Department of Public Safety, Hawaii Paroling Authority, and Adult Probation Services to effectively implement changes to policies and practices”.

It will do this by reducing (and I quote Part I of the bill) “the current incarcerated population and generate savings of approximately 500 beds and $9 Million by the end of fiscal year 2013, 850 beds and $19 M in fy 2014 and 1,050 beds and $26 M in fy 2015.” That means the first year of the program 500 prisoners will be released, year 2, 350 more prisoners, and 200 more in year 3!


In my humble and uneducated estimation, this is kapakahi! I think we should start out small and enlarge the program gradually. Why start the first year with 500 releases? I also question whether we will have the necessary programs and personnel in place for Year 1. Will drug and alcohol treatment, counseling, vocational training, or halfway houses be ready? Will there be jobs for these people? The plan outlines releasing 1,050 prisoners in the first three years of the program, and it will sunset in 2018 – 6 years. 2018 is when this Administration hopes to exit the scene, so that’s why I wonder whether this is prison reform or a cost-saving device.

The program, as described in the Working Group Plan and in earlier versions of this bill, called for the release of Class A felons 18 months before the end of a their terms. Class B and C would not be released as soon. Why is this? I would release Class C felons sooner than Class A felons. This may increase the danger to public safety. Even with programs supporting released prisoners, the recidivism rate approaches 50%.

I share Honolulu Prosecutor Keith Kaneshiro’s skepticism. We should “go slow” in releasing prisoners and have people and programs in place to better the chances of success. This is critically important - for the sake of the released prisoners, their families and the community. I believe my constructive criticisms this session will help shape a better program. We should go back to the drawing board to re-examine the features of this release program. Job 1 is to consider long-term reform and public safety – not short term cost savings.


Rep. Marumoto addresses SB 2776 - Public Safety; Parole


Conf. Comm. Rep. No. 165-12 S.B. No. 2776, S.D. 2, H.D. 2, C.D. 1RELATING TO PUBLIC SAFETY. (Public Safety; Parole; Pre-trial Risk Assessment) AS AMENDED, PASS FINAL READING

The purpose of this bill is to (1) improve efficiency by reducing the number of prisoners that PSD incarcerates and (2) attempting to increase (from 10% to 25%) the percentage deducted from inmates' accounts for restitution payments.

More specifically the bill attempts to implement the recommendations of the Justice Reinvestment Working Group in that it: Requires a pre-trial risk assessment to be conducted within 3 working days of commitment to a jail. Requires the use of validated risk assessments. Limits length of incarceration for certain first-time parole violators to 6 months. Requires certain release dates on supervised parole prior to expiration of maximum sentence . Appropriates unspecified amounts of general funds for 57 positions in PSD. Requires unspecified appropriations of funds for operating expenses. Increases HPA membership from 3 to 5 members.

This is the companion bill to HB 2514 HD3; during House Third Reading, Reps. Ching, Marumoto, Thielen, Ward voted no, and Rep. Pine voted WR.

C&C Honolulu Dept. of the Prosecuting Attorney (John Riki Karamatsu):

  • Concerned about codifying assessment. There is already an assessment instrument used to determine whether a bail report should be prepared for the courts.
  • HPA should have full discretion. We'd like case-by-case analysis of prisoners before HPA. Don't automatically limit a parole violator to a 6-month period of re-incarceration.
  • Restitution language is not enough. Look at HB 2394 to improve restitution (among other things: includes unpaid restitution as valid debt, for purposes of withholding State income tax refunds).
  • We agree in trying to save State money, but precautions and safety nets in place. So personnel should be in place first.

Contact: Excerpt from Capitol TV


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