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Thursday, June 8, 2000

Inmate advocates voice
opposition to transfer

Star-Bulletin staff


About 140 Hawaii inmates, including 20 women, were transferred last night to correctional facilities in Oklahoma and Minnesota.

They will replace 180 inmates scheduled to be released shortly, who were brought back to Hawaii Tuesday night, says state Public Safety Director Ted Sakai.

It's the second transfer of inmates to and from the mainland this year, Sakai added.

Protect Our Native Ohana, a coalition of five organizations plus family groups, canceled a planned demonstration to protest last night's transfer of inmates.

PONO is opposed to the "deportation" of native Hawaiian inmates to the mainland because "as indigenous peoples, their well-being is dependent and tied to the land and their ohanas," said PONO spokeswoman Healani Sonoda.

"By transferring native Hawaiian inmates against their will, the state is committing an act of genocide," Sonoda added.

PONO claims that 205,079 Hawaiians make up 18.8 percent of Hawaii's prison population and that many are in prison for property crimes, which reflects their poverty-level economic status.

The organization favors rehabilitative facilities as an alternative to a punishment-oriented system.

"We understand where they're coming from," Sakai said. "I wish we could keep all the inmates in Hawaii, but the reality is there's not enough bed space in Hawaii to do it."


As of April, the state had 79 females and 1,052 male inmates in five mainland prisons.

At that point, the state Public Safety Department had spent $48.7 million. All the contracts will expire June 30, 2001.

By institutions, Hawaii inmates are at:

Bullet Central Oklahoma Correctional Center: 79 females, Correctional Services Corp.

Bullet Prairie Correctional Facility: 634 males, Minnesota, Correctional Corp. of America.

Bullet Diamondback Correctional Facility: 349 males, Oklahoma, Correctional Corp. of America.

Bullet Florence Correctional Center: 69 males, Arizona, Correctional Corp. of America.

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