Hawaii Eyes ‘Game-Changing’ Justice Overhaul

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Photo by Stefan Gerd Oeser via Flickr

Big changes may be coming for criminal justice in Hawaii as a result of a package of bills approved by the Legislature this year, reports the Honolulu Civil Beat.

Under the bills, the state could see a top-to-bottom institutional transformation.

Proposals include:

  • Low-income people charged with nonviolent crimes who are not considered flight risks may find it easier to get out of jail while awaiting trial.
  • The state’s eight jails and prisons would be independently monitored  by expert criminologists committed to reform.
  • for the first time, the state would have a system to track statistics on crime, the courts, punishment and rehabilitation.

Robert Merce, a board member of the Native Hawaiian Legal Corp. and a long-time advocate of treating prisoners humanely.said that If the bills are enacted and effectively implemented, it could be a “game-changer” for criminal justice in the state.

Among the measures singled out by Merce is a bill to create a five-person oversight commission to monitor jails and prisons with the goal of creating “positive reform towards a rehabilitative and therapeutic correctional system.”

“The words that I use to describe it are that this will create systems that are safer, smarter and more transparent, at least that’s my hope,” said Rep. Gregg Takayama, chairman of the House Public Safety, Veterans, and Military Affairs Committee, who authored much of the legislation.

The oversight commission would monitor the correctional system, with the assistance of a trained coordinator who is “well-versed in criminal justice reform and maintains a firm commitment to the correctional system’s transition to a rehabilitative and therapeutic model,” according to the law.

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