[ OUR OPINION ]
State must bite
the fiscal bullet
to fix prisons, jails
A DRAFT report that places a breathtaking $500 million price tag on building and maintaining Hawaii's correctional facilities through the next decade should not dissuade Governor Lingle from her goal of overhauling the state's prisons and jails. Although the state has numerous other spending priorities, the report's warning that inaction could result in lawsuits should be enough incentive to enlist legislative agreement.
A preliminary report puts the cost of building and improving Hawaii's correctional facilities at $500 million during the next 10 years.
It was only a few years ago that the state emerged from 14 years of federal court supervision to bring its prisons in to compliance with national standards after overcrowding and inadequate safety prompted suits by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The ACLU is not considering legal action at present, saying it wants to give the new state administration time to assess the problems. However, all of the state's prisons exceed capacity and its jails continue to bulge with a mix of more than 1,400 pretrial detainees . Meanwhile, space shortage has forced nearly 1,200 Hawaii inmates to privately operated prisons on the mainland at a cost of $25 million a year.
Lingle, in keeping with her campaign promise to build two privately financed facilities, launched a review, while proposing that all four of the state's detention facilities, including the Oahu Community Correctional Center in Kalihi, be replaced.
A draft report by private consultants calls for the state to spend $300 million immediately to build, repair and maintain correction facilities and as much as $500 through the next 10 years. While declining to discuss the report until in final form, Lingle told the Star-Bulletin's Richard Borreca that the preliminary data was "sobering."
The prison problem vexed Lingle's predecessor, Ben Cayetano, through his two terms, failing to win legislative and public approval on a variety of prison construction plans. Even in the last month of his service, Cayetano attempted to push through a privately built facility at Halawa, but abandoned the effort due to unexpectedly high costs.
Lingle has said she will propose replacing detention components on all islands as well as constructing a new prison with drug treatment tied in and at least two key legislators seem to concur with the need. State Public Safety Director John Peyton is on board, favoring a facility similar to the 12-story federal detention center near Honolulu Airport that could house up to 900 of the 5,500 inmates now in state custody.
While it appears that state leaders have summoned the political will to take on this long-unresolved problem, they will need to convince taxpayers that prisons and jails will require a share of scarce revenues that have other claims for improvement, like education and transportation. It won't be easy.
BACK TO TOP
Mailer strong choice
THE NEW year will bring back a familiar face to Kamehameha Schools as a 1970 graduate will take the helm of the $6 billion trust next month. Dee Jay Mailer's experience in business and her ties to Hawaii make her a sensible choice as the institution's chief executive officer.
The $6 billion trust has chosen a new chief executive officer to lead the institution.
Mailer, who now heads The Global Fund, a public-private health trust based in Switzerland, will need all the skills she can muster to fill the position vacant since May when Hamilton McCubbin resigned under a cloud of controversy.
She will have to shepherd the school through a legal challenge of its Hawaiian-preference admissions policy now on appeal in federal court and the difficult task of healing a community that has split over its accepting a non-Hawaiian boy as part of a settlement in another.
Mailer's background as a nurse and as an administrator of health care organizations will surely help as will her understanding of the history and importance of the mission of the school that she and her two daughters attended.
"As keiki o ka aina, I am excited to have found my way back to repay the gift given me," Mailer said in a statement with the trust's announcement of her appointment.
We wish her well as she embraces the task.