Tuesday, February 3, 1998

Parole board’s tougher
policy is badly needed

HAWAII'S overcrowded prison conditions have resulted in part from public demands for stiffer prison sentences. The Hawaii Paroling Authority has acted consistently with those demands by lengthening the minimum periods before the most violent convicts can become eligible for parole. Paroling Authority interim chairman Al Beaver has spearheaded that change and should be commended for his approach.

Beaver is unapologetic for his policy on violent criminals. Applying what he says -- and we agree -- is common sense, he favors minimum terms that are lengthy to the point of being virtually endless for the most violent criminals and drug dealers. He sees the presence of small-time drug users as a community health problem best addressed by treatment programs.

His detractors complain that the paroling authority's hefty sentences will burst the seams of the prison system. Indeed, prison expansion is needed, and Governor Cayetano has proposed a 2,300-bed prison on the Big Island.

However, much of the nation's growing prison growth has resulted from the growing number of felony drug convictions of low-level users, for whom alternative programs are more appropriate. A distinction must be made between the violent, unrepentant criminal who poses a continuing threat to society and an offender who can be rehabilitated.

Criticism of Beaver comes from those who accuse him of drawing the line too harshly and imposing excessively lengthy minimum terms on inmates who consequently lack incentives to accept treatment to gain earlier release. However, in the past the board has erred too much on the side of leniency.

Some paroling authority staff members have accused Beaver of giving favorable treatment to the son of a union official, and the allegation is being investigated by the attorney general's office. Unless misconduct can be proved, Beaver should be appointed for a four-year term as chairman of the authority.

Iraq's oil ceiling

WHILE the prospects of avoiding another military confrontation with Iraq to force it to comply with United Nations weapons inspection requirements are dimming, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan is proposing that the Security Council double the amount of oil Iraq is allowed to sell abroad. The recommendation, aimed at increasing the food and medicine Iraq can buy and thereby alleviate the suffering of its people as a result of the U.N. embargo, seems justified.

The Security Council imposed sanctions in August 1990 in response to Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait. The sanctions were continued after Saddam's forces were driven from Kuwait in the Persian Gulf War in order to force Iraq to eliminate its weapons of mass destruction. In December 1996 the Security Council allowed Iraq to export limited amounts of oil to buy food and medicine, to pay reparations to Gulf War victims and to finance the weapons monitoring program.

The secretary-general now proposes that Iraq be permitted to sell $5.2 billion of oil over six months. The current six-month ceiling is $2.14 billion. He explains that since the program went into effect, it has become clear that the $2 billion ceiling "is inadequate to prevent further deterioration in humanitarian conditions" in Iraq.

Unquestionably such deterioration has occurred, and Saddam has used the suffering in his propaganda to campaign for an end to the embargo -- while finding money to continue covert weapons making and other military activities. Raising the ceiling on oil exports could provide relief and deprive the dictator of an argument for ending the embargo.

It is obvious that Saddam is testing the resolve of the world community to enforce weapons inspection. The U.N. must not back off. However, permitting the purchase of more food and medicine would be consistent with a policy of firmness.

Holt's credit cards

SINCE the Star-Bulletin's Rick Daysog reported last week that Milton Holt spent thousands of dollars at local strip clubs and restaurants and Las Vegas casinos using Bishop Estate credit cards, we have been waiting for an explanation from the estate. The story broke when the state filed a motion seeking sanctions against the Bishop Estate, saying it withheld subpoenaed information such as Holt's credit card records, which show him running up about $21,000 in charges at such establishments between 1992 and 1997.

Surely, we thought, Holt, a former state senator and Kamehameha Schools assistant athletic director, now a special projects officer for the estate, must have reimbursed the organization for the charges. It seemed inconceivable that bills from strip clubs and casinos could have been considered legitimate expenses and were accepted as such by the estate. The charges would have been highly questionable, to say the least, for a private business. For a charitable institution they are incredible.

Yesterday trustee Lokelani Lindsey said Holt had repaid the estate for the charges, but declined to elaborate. This leaves open the question of whether the repayments were made in a timely manner or whether Holt did nothing until the charges came to light.

A related question is whether the nature of the charges was known to estate officials and they approved them. That would be scandalous. If the estate was unaware of what was being charged to its account and approved the charges regardless, that would be another indication of gross mismanagement.

If Holt wishes to patronize strip clubs, restaurants and casinos, that is his right. But it should be at his expense, not the Bishop Estate's. It is supposed to be furthering the education of Hawaiian children, not underwriting sprees by its own officials.

Bishop Estate Archive

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