Prison release scare came from legislators
The state attorney general has decided that a new law aimed at bringing home some Hawaii inmates serving time in mainland prison facilities is not mandatory.
HAWAII residents can be relieved that a new law aimed at returning some prison inmates back to the islands from mainland facilities, although the state has no extra prison space for them, lacks the teeth to advance the ill-advised plan. The attorney general has decided the state is not required to bring the inmates home if no prison cells are available for them.
Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed the measure in July, concerned that the state "will need to release the people before they've served their time." Senate President Colleen Hanabusa countered that it was up to the state's Public Safety Department to "figure something out." The state, she said, had gotten "to the point where we have to bring our prisoners home."
Attorney General Mark Bennett, after a review of the issue, has decided that the state does not "have to" bring them home after all. The bill's joint conference report states that their return "is to be contingent upon the existence of the appropriate programs in Hawaii."
Those "programs" apparently refer to various education, training and other services described in the bill to help inmates eventually re-enter society. The report and the bill itself make no mention of the availability of prison space.
Hanabusa, a lawyer, now agrees that the new law does not mean the inmates "have to" be returned to Hawaii. "I think now the public can be assured it doesn't require people to be released or people (serving time in Hawaii prisons) to be released to make room for them," she told KITV-4 News last week, "which I think was not a good thing to put that kind of scare in the people."
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