studied for Hawaii
A team that visited several
sites says more than one
are on Indian land
Arizona split on Hawaii prisonBy Craig Gima
Besides considering sites in cities and counties on the mainland, the state is also talking with Indian nations about building a prison for Hawaii inmates.
"More than one of the sites would be on Indian land," Attorney General Earl Anzai said today after returning from a trip to meet with officials and visit potential sites.
"It was very interesting. There appear to be several communities out there that would be interested in having a prison which would house Hawaii inmates," he said.
Anzai and Public Safety Director Ted Sakai are preparing a report for Gov. Ben Cayetano on their trip. Anzai said the report will not make recommendations, but will go over the pluses and minuses of each site.
Anazai said if a decision is made to build a prison on the mainland, it would take about 18 months to construct a prison and move inmates there.
The next step, should the governor select a site, would be to negotiate the details on a contract.
"We looked at a lot of different ways including ownership," he said. "But I think one of the more viable ones is ownership by (an) Indian nation or county or city government, so that in essence we are partners with them. We don't want to be running our own prison in another state."
Last week, House Public Safety Chairman Nestor Garcia (D, Waipahu) said his talks with companies interested in building a prison for Hawaii indicate that a medium-security facility on the mainland could be built and run for about the same or less than the $40 a day per inmate that the state now pays to house prisoners here.
Anzai said the state would not put money up front to finance the cost of construction.
"Whatever system we come up with it would be designed to protect the state as much as possible from any kind of financial disaster," he said.
Last week, Cayetano told reporters that building a prison housing about 2,300 inmates near Kulani on the Big Island did not appear practical because of objections raised by environmentalists and key Big Island state senators.
The governor sent Anzai and Sakai to talk with officials and visit possible sites.
Two of the sites are in Yuma and Kingman in Arizona. Another is in New Mexico. Anzai would not say what other sites he visited.
He said some of the factors he and Sakai looked at were the distance from the sites to an airport and hospital facilities and employment opportunities for prisoners.
Two years ago, the Legislature gave the governor the authority to negotiate for a privately-built prison.
But any payment would still need legislative approval.
Arizona split on
isle prison plan
Some in the Arizona countyBy Lori Tighe
where Hawaii might build a prison
have no objection, saying,
'we just want the money'
Nobody cares if Hawaii builds a prison in the middle of the desert, said Gov. Ben Cayetano. Except for Yuma, Ariz.
A beleaguered governor, fed up with criticism over his plan to build a 2,300-bed prison on the Big Island, said: "I'm tired of fighting these battles. You go to the mainland, you build it in the middle of the desert. Nobody cares. And we do it cheaper."
But some people got a little prickly over the governor's comment in Yuma County, land of the threatened flat-tailed horned lizard.
"Our desert is very precious and useful," said Lucy Shipp, chairwoman of the Yuma County Board of Supervisors. "Just because it's vacant doesn't mean it's useless. I felt he (the governor) doesn't fully understand the desert of Arizona."
But the governor's commments made Yuma business people very happy.
"The area needs the money," said Larry Froschheuser, of the Greater Yuma Economic Development Corp. "We have high unemployment and could use the jobs."
Hawaii seems very interested in 80 acres near San Luis, a town in Yuma County, near the Mexican border, Froschheuser said.
The area already has three prisons, a medium, medium/maximum and maximum security, managed by a single warden.
Hawaii also seems interested in another Arizona desert town, Kingman, Froschheuser said. But San Luis is closest to the state's largest airport, enabling safer transfer of prisoners, he said.
The governor sent a search party of acting Attorney General Earl Anzai and Public Safety Director Ted Sakai last week to scope out possible prison sites in the desert. Their itinerary included New Mexico and a few other spots in Arizona along the Colorado River.
The idea to build the new prison near the Big Island's Kulani in the heart of ancient forests sparked heated opposition from environmentalists, who want to keep the Big Island pristine.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and Yuma residents believe their desert is a beautiful place too.
"There are many uses for our desert, including leaving it pristine," said Shipp.
It may not be a lush tropical paradise, but "Here in Yuma," Shipp said, "we care very much about the desert."
Fortunately for the governor, Yuma also cares about jobs.
The town of San Luis has 70 percent unemployment, and a new prison will create 400 jobs and pump $2 million a year into the economy, said San Luis Mayor Joe Harper.
"They can think whatever they want," Harper said of Hawaii's view of its desert. "We just want the money."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.