by Lindsey Gemme, Editor, Eloy Enterprise
Despite the lofty campaign goal of Hawaii Governor Neil Abercrombie to bring its state prisoners incarcerated in mainland private prisons back home, officials are finding that the infrastructure on the island chain state is not up for the challenge.
Sixteen years ago, Hawaii’s prisoners were contracted out of state as a “short-term solution” to a major overcrowding problem. But the state has not found an alternative, and their prisoners have been housed in CCA prisons since 1998 for $60 million a year.
Although a few prisoners have been returned since December, and approximately 125 more prisoners were brought home than sent to the mainland, a foolproof plan has yet to be formed to get them all back on Hawaiian soil.
“It is very clear at this time that we do not have all the facilities to bring the inmates back,” Martha Torney, deputy director of administration for the state Department of Public Safety told Hawaii newspaper The Star Advertiser last week. “As the state moves toward bringing the inmates back to the islands, that will determine what our needs are in the future.”
The state requested proposals March 1 for bids for the housing of 1,800 prisoners on the mainland for three years once the current contract ends in June. The deadline for bids is at the end of this month. And the company most anticipated to submit a bid is a current holder of over 1,700 Hawaii prisoners, Corrections Corp. of America. There are 1,699 Hawaiian prisoners today in CCA’s Saguaro Correctional Center in Eloy and another 58 inmates in their other Eloy facility, Red Rock Correctional Center.
Officials say that CCA has expressed an interest in building a new facility in Hawaii to help with the situation.
Other possibilities that are being investigated are constructing a new prison facility on the island of Maui, reopening a prison called the Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island, or introducing electronic monitoring and expanding furlough programs.