Kulani prison closed out of fiscal necessity


POSTED: Monday, October 05, 2009

The decision to close the Kulani Correctional Facility was an extremely difficult one, made necessary by the state's financial situation.

The department did not initiate this change without great consideration and it was not done to justify the transfer of additional inmates out of Hawaii.

The state cannot afford the size of government, programs and facilities that we have maintained in the past.

More than 15 years ago, faced by the lack of sufficient prison bed and program space for its growing offender population and the inability to obtain public support for the construction of a new prison, the department had to transfer inmates out of state. At that time, the department was operating under a federal consent decree that specifically required alleviating overcrowded conditions at our correctional facilities.

Kat Brady (”;What are the real reasons for closing Kulani?,”; Star-Bulletin, Sept. 30) implies that Kulani inmates will be sent to medium-security prisons on the mainland instead of minimum-security prisons in the state. Ms. Brady is well aware that all of the Kulani inmates went to other facilities in Hawaii, including the Federal Detention Center on Oahu. None has gone to the mainland.

While Kulani was the site of the department's largest sex offender treatment program, it was also the most expensive prison to operate. The daily cost per inmate was $101, not $90.24 as stated by Ms. Brady. The cost to house an inmate at the Federal Detention Center is $86.90 per day, not $90.90, as cited by Ms. Brady. And when Kulani closed, it had 127 inmates, not 210 as she claimed.

With the closure of Kulani and the expansion of our existing sex offender treatment program on Oahu, inmates may complete the program in half the time. At Kulani, a therapist had to travel from Oahu to the Big Island for at least one session per week; on Oahu we can conduct more sessions. Sex offenders can complete the program in 12 months instead of 24.

The state lacks the capacity to house all Hawaii inmates currently on the mainland. The cost for inmates held in Arizona is $64.44 per day, per inmate, far less than the $101 daily cost of a minimum-security bed at Kulani. The cost to maintain the facility also was a factor. Given the state's economic situation, it was fiscally irresponsible to continue to operate the Kulani facility.

The Department of Public Safety welcomes real solutions, constructive feedback, and the opportunity to answer any concern.

It is our hope that in the future, Ms. Brady and others will work with the department, rather than issue misleading statements and inaccurate information that is not in the best interest of the general public, our staff, and the offenders entrusted to our care and custody.


Tommy Johnson is the Hawaii Department of Public Safety's deputy director for corrections.