HONOLULU MUST TRANSITION FROM A PUNITIVE TO A REHABILITATIVE CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM - Top issue as Honolulu Prosecutor's Race 2020 Candidate
Despite the hundreds of millions of dollars Hawaii spends on corrections each year, the outcomes are consistently poor. Within three years of being released, 60% of Hawaii parolees are back in jail or prison for either a parole violation or charged with a new crime.
It makes no sense for the Honolulu Prosecutor to send people to prison if they come out and quickly reoffend, yet that is what is happening.
Hawaii should immediately being to transition from a punitive to a rehabilitative correctional system that will reduce recidivism, rain in long-term costs, and make our communities safer. This is a top issue for the City and County of Honolulu Prosecutor's Race this year.
Hawaii's punitive correctional system is a failure. We lock people up by the thousands, but they come out and quickly reoffend. The recidivism rate for parolees is 53.3%. For prisoners who serve their maximum sentence ("max out") it's 66.0%. And of those who do recidivate, 63% do so within the first twelve months, and 88.9% have reoffended within twenty-four months. The three-year recidivism rate for those who commit property crimes is 69.8% and there are sometimes more than 300 probation violators locked up at the Oahu Correctional Community Center ("OCCC").
If Honolulu continues on the path it has been on for the past forty years, we can expect the same poor outcomes and high rates of reoffending we have experienced in the past, correctional costs will consume an ever-increasing share of the state budget, and our communities will not be any safer despite the hundreds of millions of dollars we spend on corrections.
Norway's correctional system is generally regarded as the best in the world, and in 2018, Hawaii Supreme Court Justice Michael Wilson, representative Gregg Takayama, and several other people from Hawaii spent a week visiting Norwegian prisons and meeting with correctional experts from Norway, Sweden, England, ad Ireland. When they returned, Representative Takayama introduced House Concurrent Resolution 85 (2016) which called for a task force to study best practices from other states and countries and recommend ways to improve Hawaii's correctional system. The resolution passed and the Task Force was established under the leadership of Justice Wilson. The task force spent two years studying best practices in other states and countries, and in December 2018, issued its 116-page final report to the Hawaii legislature.
The Task Force's single most important recommendation was that Hawaii should begin to transition from a punitive to a rehabilitative correctional model based on "smart justice" and the humane treatment of prisoners by correctional officers who are trained to prepare inmates for successful release into the community will best serve the interests of Hawaii. Hawaii should also follow the lead of other states that are focused on reducing prison populations, expanding community-based corrections, and supporting effective offender reentry strategies and supporting effective offender reentry strategies.1
Jacquie agrees with the final report of the HCR 85 Task Force on Prison Reform which said that "helping prisoners overcome thinking, habits, impulses, and poor decision-making that landed them in prison stands a far better chance of making a good citizen than a retributive and punitive approach.2
As Honolulu Prosecutor, Jacquie will encourage and fully support the transition from a punitive to a rehabilitative correctional system.
Jacquie Esser is Honolulu Prosecutor Candidate for this years City and County of Honolulu election.
HCR 85 Task Force's Final Report to the Hawaii Legislature, December 2018 at xiv.
HCR 85 Task Force's Final Report to the Hawaii Legislature, December 2018 at 9.