Hawaii mayor hits Lingle over Kulani closing


POSTED: Thursday, July 23, 2009

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi said he is “;troubled”; by the state's apparent plan to close Kulani Correctional Facility on the Big Island without discussion.

Gov. Linda Lingle would not confirm the decision to lay off staff and shut the prison doors, but Kenoi said that earlier this week state prison officials told Kulani staff the prison may close.

“;It troubles me that this alarming proposal was announced only to the prison staff, while the community and elected officials of Hawaii island have been excluded from the discussion,”; Kenoi said.

He said he was concerned about the employees and what will happen with the inmates.

“;The governor owes it to this community to explain how she will mitigate the impact of this decision,”; Kenoi said.

Tommy Johnson, deputy director of the state Department of Public Safety, did not return calls for comment.

Lingle wouldn't discuss details of the possible closure to balance the budget, but said “;names of those employees were on the list of potential layoffs.”;

Lingle has said she hopes to preserve public safety and health while trying to balance the budget.

“;There's just nothing I can add at this time, but I will be able to in the next few days,”; she said.

;[Preview] Kulani Prison Budget Crisis

Kulani Prison's employees have been notified their jobs could be eliminated if the state moves forward with layoffs.

Watch ]


Kulani is a 20-acre, 160-bed minimum-security prison that opened in 1946 as a work camp.

A spokesman from Kenoi's office said there are about 90 employees and 120 inmates at the prison.

Kulani offers vocational training and specialized programming for male inmates soon to be released. It is the primary location for the state's sex offender treatment program.

Sen. Will Espero, chairman of the Senate Committee on Public Safety and Military Affairs, said an announcement is expected to come tomorrow. He couldn't discuss details, he said.

“;My concerns are that the programming that's going on at Kulani must continue,”; he said, “;especially the sex offender treatment program.”;

If the prison closes, the program must maintain its funding and staffing and be transferred to another facility, possibly Halawa Correctional Facility, he said.

“;Public safety must not be jeopardized,”; he said.