Overflow at prisons to get worse
A nationwide study sees a 21 percent rise in isle inmates by 2011
Hawaii's prison population is expected to increase 21 percent by 2011 as the state becomes more urbanized and lawmakers continue to approve tougher penalties for crimes, according to a national study on prisons released yesterday.
The increased numbers, ranking Hawaii 13th in the nation for expected prisoner growth, would force the state to decide whether to add more detention facilities in the islands or send even more inmates to other states.
HAWAII HAS PRISONERS KEPT IN VARIOUS FACILITIES:
» 3,490 inmates in Hawaii prisons
» 158 in the federal detention center
» 2,114 Hawaii inmates in mainland prisons
Source: State Department of Public Safety
The state currently has 3,490 inmates in Hawaii facilities and 158 in the federal detention center in Honolulu. On the mainland there are 2,114 Hawaii inmates, each costing the state $62.05 per day, or about $48 million a year, said Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Louise Kim McCoy.
Nationally, state and federal prison populations will swell by 13 percent, or 192,000 additional inmates, to 1.7 million in the next five years, according to the report by the Pew Charitable Trusts' Public Safety Performance Project.
Montana has the highest expected growth rate at 41 percent.
A rise in methamphetamine arrests, increased penalties for sex crimes, tougher sentencing and more difficult prison-release requirements have contributed to the increases, said Dr. James Austin, a criminologist and one of the report's authors.
For the past 12 years, island prisons have overflowed with inmates, and to solve the population problem Hawaii pays other states to house the prisoners.
While adding additional facilities has been debated for the past few years, Gov. Linda Lingle backed off a 2002 campaign pledge to build two new prisons in Hawaii last year.
Lingle said in July that no community in the state would show a willingness to have a new prison built in its neighborhood.
Critics say the governor should not wait for a community to come forward.
"It's inappropriate for the governor to say those advocates or supporters for a new facility need to come up with a location," said Sen. Clayton Hee (D, Kahuku-Kaneohe), chairman of the Senate Judiciary and Labor Committee. "She's the governor. She should make that decision or suggest who should."
Instead of building new prisons, the state plans to refurbish and repair existing facilities and community correctional centers. Lingle also wants to invest in more residential-based facilities to treat nonviolent inmates and those soon to re-enter society, Lingle spokesman Russell Pang said.
The mainland prisoners are currently spread out among privately run correctional centers in Arizona, Oklahoma, Mississippi and Kentucky, but the state plans to consolidate them at three Arizona facilities. Arizona ranked second in the nation for prisoner growth, with its prison population expected to rise to 48,381 in 2011 from 35,965 this year, the report found.