Detention should be
last resort for youth


Governor Lingle is considering a program of community-based facilities for detention of delinquent youths.

LAST month's temporary transfer of seven girls from the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility to a detention center in Utah has drawn attention to the services available for delinquent young people. Governor Lingle says she intends to put youth correctional facilities on neighbor islands and consult with experts about successful programs on the mainland.

While more detention facilities may be needed, experts may advise the governor to focus on intervention programs that don't include detention. A national panel has concluded that intensive counseling for families and young people at risk is more promising.

The seven girls were transferred to the Salt Lake Valley Detention Center in late September and are scheduled to be returned to Hawaii on Nov. 28. The transfer allows some boys at their overcrowded facilities to be moved into the girls' unit.

Lingle said one of the problems is that youngsters who are sentenced to just a few days confinement are mixed in with long-term inmates. "You are having a mixing of population that you shouldn't have," she said.

A 13-expert panel convened by the National Institutes of Health agrees. The panel concluded yesterday that boot camps, group detention centers and other "get tough" programs bring together young people with violent tendencies who then teach each other how to commit more crime. "The more sophisticated (teens) instruct the more naive in precisely the behaviors that the intervener wishes to prevent," it said.

One program cited by the panel as effective is a therapy program of 12 one-hour sessions over three months to be attended by youth and their families. Another successful one is a community-based clinical treatment program, with 60 hours of counseling over four months, that targets violent and chronic offenders at risk of being taken away from their families.

Detention should be a last resort. Before subjecting a child to a situation that may lead to more crime, the state should exhaust ways to provide alternative services that are needed to prevent the child from engaging in further criminal activity.


Hawaii faces a future of
greater energy needs


Customers' cooperation helped forestall a possible disruption of electricity when HECO's generators were out of service.

OAHU residents and businesses proved the power of conservation this week, averting rolling blackouts and failures threatened when problems with Hawaiian Electric Co. generators arose just as demand for electricity churned at record levels. The effort demonstrated what can be accomplished when people are mindful of consumption and take small steps to curb use. Like with water, energy conservation is a practice that should be routine rather than sporadic.

Customers heeded HECO's call to reduce consumption after two of its generators broke down while another was off line for planned maintenance, the city's HPower plant was at half capacity and a private operator that sells power to HECO was out of service.

At the same time, demand was increasing. Hot, muggy weather had fans and air conditioners flying out of stores. The combination of too much demand and too little generation would have forced HECO to cut power to customers to maintain stability of its system.

Conservation trimmed demand by 49 megawatts Wednesday from Tuesday's all-time high of 1,327 megawatts, but HECO warned that with one generator still out and sweltering temperatures continuing, people needed to use less power.

The situation and the state's dependence on imported oil for electricity illustrate the need for Hawaii to consider all of its energy options -- from how power is generated and distributed -- and how to cut demand and make best use of what is produced.

HECO has good ideas, such as allowing large businesses like hotels to install generators that would use heat from electrical output to produce hot water. But there are many other technology and strategies, like capturing solar energy in glass windows and doors, building energy efficient homes without need for air conditioning, and providing tax credits for structures that lessen energy use.

The incident points to the need to rethink how electricity is produced and distributed. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, advanced technology has lessened the need to build large power plants. Instead, smaller generators that can add power when needed would be far more efficient. Site-use distributive generators, placed close to customers, would eliminate massive grids that are subject to similarly massive disruption.

In 2002 -- the last time HECO asked customers' to cut consumption -- the company had 281,000 customers. Today, it has 6,000 more. Maurice Kaya, the state's energy program chief, was right when he said HECO's problems "is kind of an awakening call for all of us" to look at future energy needs. If continued growth is the goal, Hawaii's leaders need to place greater attention on how power can be produced. Current thinking seems to be that we stay with conventional methods, but as oil prices hit record highs and disruption of supplies always a possibility, government and business should be searching earnestly for alternatives.




Oahu Publications, Inc. publishes the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, MidWeek and military newspapers

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