Prison tents pitched as use for money
The Department of Public Safety wants to put seven temporary shelters across the state to help alleviate overcrowding in correctional centers across the state.
It is part of the plan, Public Safety Director Clayton Frank said, to use a $13.4 million federal grant first appropriated in 1996 and scheduled to expire in October.
"We needed to do something with the money that is going to lapse," Frank added.
The structures, manufactured by Sprung Instant Structures Inc., have aluminum frames and a fiberglass fabric skin built to withstand heavy wind. The 7,000-square-foot structures each would house 64 minimum-security inmates, 256 male and 192 female prisoners in total, according to a letter sent by Gov. Linda Lingle to the U.S. Department of Justice explaining the project's use of federal funds.
Similar structures have been used to house soldiers at Schofield Barracks.
They would be placed on the neighbor islands -- two each at Maui Community Correctional Center, Kauai Community Correctional Center and the Kulani Correctional Center in Hilo, as well as a single building at Hawaii Community Correctional Center.
It is the hope of the Department of Public Safety, spokeswoman Louise Kim-McCoy said, that the inmates themselves will be able to provide the labor to erect the structures.
The Sprung buildings, without air conditioning, are expected to cost $6 million, which includes storage buildings to keep the structures before they are put up, and money to hire and complete a National Environmental Policy Act report, similar to the state's environmental assessment, Frank said.
Once the report is completed, the state will purchase the buildings as well as begin their other federally funded projects as part of the Violent Offender Incarceration/Truth-in-Sentencing grant.
Part of the grant, $3.8 million, would be used to build other portable, prefabricated buildings to provide more programs, such as substance abuse treatment at the Maui and Hawaii correctional centers, as well as at the Halawa, Kulani and Waiawa Correctional Facilities, Frank added.
The plan also calls for the purchase of drug detectors, both portable and permanent, that would be used to screen people for narcotics. The detectors would cost a total of $1.3 million for three walk-through detectors and 12 portable ones.
Another chunk of the funds, about $2.45 million, would go to renovation of three juvenile correctional facilities on Maui, the Big Island and Oahu, to alleviate overcrowding at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility. In total, 36 beds would be provided in the renovation.
While the 454 beds in total would mark the largest increase in prison beds in decades, Frank said the statewide problem would still not be completely solved.
"It's a start for us," he added.
Plans for a new prison on Maui at the Puunene site, which was to be the original purpose for the funds, is "still in the planning and design phase," Frank said, but the construction could not be done in time to meet the federal deadline.
Specific locations for the Sprung buildings and the other prefabricated buildings will be discussed with the wardens at the facilities to see where they can best fit.
Once they are built, though, the temporary structures are likely to be in place for a while.
"We're going to try and use them for as long as possible," Frank added.