CCA is focusing on reducing recidivism…Not! Caveat Emptor!

imgres-1And now for the latest news from the profiteers who call our men “monkeys”….

Prison Firm CCA Seeks to Reduce Number of Repeat Offenders
Company Pushes to Reduce Costs Associated with Recidivism
Devlin Barret, The Wall Street Journal, Sept. 12, 2014

“Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the nation’s largest private prison company, is shifting its focus toward helping release more inmates and keep them out. The firm tells the Wall Street Journal it is a reaction to changing public policies on the severity of criminal punishment. After three decades of surging prison populations, the number of people behind bars is reaching apparent stability. Repeat offenders remain a costly headwind. A Justice Department study of data from 2005 to 2010 in 30 states found that three out of four released prisoners will be rearrested within five years of their release. Damon Hininger, CCA chief executive, said government clients are increasingly concerned about the long-term costs of housing inmates and are pushing CCA and other private operators to save them money by reducing recidivism.
“He plans to expand the company’s rehabilitation programs, drug counseling and prisoner re-entry work. It’s a significant shift for CCA, which has built a profitable business from incarcerating people, now nearly 70,000 inmates in more than 60 facilities. The company is the fifth-largest U.S.  correction system, after the federal government and California, Florida and Texas. Hedy Weinberg of the American Civil Liberties Union of Tennessee has doubts about the company’s initiative. “It must be a challenge for CCA to implement programs that could reduce recidivism when that runs counter to the private prison model itself,” she said. “We can only hope that CCA’s interest in such programs indicate a shift away from its previous stance that ‘reductions in crime rates’ are a ‘risk factor’ for business and toward a completely new business model that does not rely on ever-growing mass incarceration.” (

Losing state contracts has made them “see the light” … NOT! They are now seeking to dupe states with their reentry programs. What a crock!  

Caveat Emptor
Let the buyer beware!


2014 Global Commission on Drug Policy Report; Research on Misdemeanor Decriminalization

imgresAs you may have heard, the Global Commission on Drug Policy, has released its second report. Today’s post contains articles and the report.

The US and Hawai`i are definitely outliers in the world of drug policy. Pushing punative laws has not only helped to bankrupt governments; it has severely impacted other important aspects of governmental budgets and services such as education, health care, and human services.

This is especially relevant in Hawai`i since we are in the midst of a Task Force to make recommendations to the legislature for the establishment of medical marijuana dispensaries for our sick and suffering residents.

It seems that everyone in the world knows the war on drugs is a complete and abject failure…while Hawai`i  continues to push punitive laws and sentences for an issue that should be addressed in the  public health arena.

 Taking Control: Pathways to Drug Policies that Work
Global Commission on Drug Policy, September 2014

Below are six examples from the report of how the war on drugs has failed:

  1. A Failure on Its Own Terms The international community is further than ever from realizing a “drug-free world.” Global drug production, supply and use continue to rise despite increasing resources being directed toward enforcement. Read more
  1. Threatening Public Health and Safety Punitive drug law enforcement fuels crime and maximizes the health risks associated with drug use, especially among the most vulnerable. This is because drug production, shipment and retail are left in the hands of organized criminals, and people who use drugs are criminalized, rather than provided with assistance. Read more
  1. Undermining Human Rights, Fostering Discrimination Punitive approaches to drug policy are severely undermining human rights in every region of the world. They lead to the erosion of civil liberties and fair trial standards, the stigmatization of individuals and groups—particularly women, young people, and ethnic minorities—and the imposition of abusive and inhumane punishments. Read more
  1. Fueling Crime and Enriching Criminals Rather than reduce crime, enforcement-based drug policy actively fuels it. Spiraling illicit drug prices provide a profit motive for criminal groups to enter the trade, and drive some people who are dependent on drugs to commit crime in order to fund their use. Read more
  1. Undermining Development and Security, Fueling Conflict Criminal drug producers and traffickers thrive in fragile, conflict-affected and underdeveloped regions, where vulnerable populations are easily exploited. The corruption, violence, and instability generated by unregulated drug markets are widely recognized as a threat to both security and development. Read more
  1. Wasting Billions, Undermining Economies Tens of billions are spent on drug law enforcement every year. And while good for the defense industry, there are disastrous secondary costs, both financial and social.Read more

The Global Commission’s new report recommends the following steps for future drug policy:

  • Putting health and community safety first requires a fundamental reorientation of policy priorities and resources, from failed punitive enforcement to proven health and social interventions. Read more
  • Stop criminalizing people for drug use and possession – and stop imposing “compulsory treatment” on people whose only offense is drug use or possession. Read more
  • Focus on reducing the power of criminal organizations as well as the violence and insecurity that result from their competition with both one another and the state. Read more
  • Take advantage of the opportunity presented by the upcoming UNGASS in 2016 to reform the global drug policy regime. Read more
  • Ensure equitable access to essential medicines, in particular opiate-based medications for pain. Read more
  • Rely on alternatives to incarceration for non-violent, low-level participants in illicit drug markets such as farmers, couriers and others involved in the production, transport and sale of illicit drugs. Read more
  • Allow and encourage diverse experiments in legally regulating markets in currently illicit drugs, beginning with but not limited to cannabis, coca leaf and certain novel psychoactive substances. Read more

World Leaders from 20 Nations Explain How to Dig Our Way Out of the Devastating War on Drugs
The new report from the Global Commission on Drug Policy is a useful roadmap.
April M. Short, AlterNet, Sept. 10, 2014

Panel of Global Leaders Urges Drug Policy Overhaul
Edith M. Lederer Associated Press, abcNews, Sept. 9, 2014



Mending Justice – “explores the potential to learn from errors in the criminal justice system by applying a sentinel event review approach”

mending-justiceMending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews was recently released by the National Institute of Justice, Through essays from a wide range of experts, this book (that you can download for free here) responds to the question, “How should the criminal justice system respond to errors?”

About the book (from

“A common response is to seek out “bad apples,” apportion blame, and conclude that the error has been dealt with once that individual is punished or a policy is changed.

“But errors in a complex system are rarely the result of a single act or event. In medicine, aviation and other high-risk enterprises, serious errors are regarded as system errors or “organizational accidents.” Organizational accidents are potential “sentinel events,” incidents that could signal more complex flaws that threaten the integrity of the system as a whole. These other complex systems have developed sentinel event reviews — nonblaming, all-stakeholder, forward-leaning mechanisms — to go beyond disciplining rule-breakers in an effort to minimize the risk of similar errors in the future and improve overall system reliability.

“Mending Justice: Sentinel Event Reviews explores the potential to learn from errors in the criminal justice system by applying a sentinel event review approach.

“The primary essay — written by James Doyle, a Visiting Fellow with NIJ for two years — discusses how principles used by aviation and medicine to improve outcomes could be adopted in criminal justice.

“The book includes a message from the Attorney General and 16 commentaries from highly respected representatives of criminal justice researchers, practitioners and other stakeholders.”

“Justice professionals are “deceiving” themselves if they believe their decisions and actions are infallible” – Attorney General Eric Holder

It’s All About Sentencing

Today’s post is all about sentencing. This is the crucial piece of our work.  As highlighted in yesterday’s post: criminal justice policies, and not crime rates, are the prime drivers of changes in prison populations.

It’s election season and we hope that you attend candidate debates or coffee hours and ask candidates where they stand on mandatory sentencing, shipping our people to private prisons, and if they support inviting corporate prison profiteers into Hawai`i in response to the department’s prison proposal.

We’ll start off with what some other states are doing:

Candidates back reform of drug sentencing guidelines
Michael Norton and Andy Metzger, The Lowell Sun, Sept. 2, 2014

“BOSTON — Candidates for major offices this year in Massachusetts are backing the repeal or reform of mandatory minimum criminal sentences for drug offenses, according to a report released Tuesday. …

“‘No candidate was in favor of longer mandatory minimum sentences or additional mandatory minimum sentences for drug offenses,’ the group wrote in its report, released just over a week before the Sept. 9 primary elections.”

If we truly want change, we MUST hold candidates’ feet to the fire. Don’t let them wiggle out of responding!

Rethink sentencing and parole to solve aging, costly prison population
The Post and Courier, Sept. 2, 2014

“The term “life in prison” is easy enough to understand when it is handed down as a sentence in a courtroom. But after the courtroom drama subsides, Corrections Department officials must face the realities of feeding, housing and caring for criminals who will spend decades in prison.

 “For many, the sentences are a just and fair punishment. Often, they are also necessary to keep the public safe.

“But some who will spend their lives behind bars must do so because of overly severe mandatory sentencing laws….”

This is South Carolina, folks…tea party country. It is pretty scary when they show more compassion than Hawai`i.


Rational Criminal Addictions
Manuel A. Utset, Florida State University College of Law, August 28, 2014, 41 pages

This article argues that repeated criminal misconduct, at least in some areas, has the characteristics of a habit or addiction. Curiosity or a transient attraction can lead an offender to commit her first crime. This first infraction will give her a sense of how much she enjoyed it, and whether she has the talent, and stomach, to continue down a path of repeated misconduct. If the feedback is sufficiently positive, the offender may commit a second crime, and possibly a third. At some point, the offender will find herself with the opportunity to commit yet another crime, and realize that the immediate disutility of stopping, of going back into a life as a law-abiding citizen, is too great: she may find that the immediate disutility of foregoing a criminal opportunity is too high. Once the habit takes hold, the offender may continue to commit crimes, even if doing so leads her to suffer large aggregate negative internalities. An offender is thus “addicted to criminal misconduct” if her previous history of misconduct increases the marginal utility of committing a crime in the current period by a sufficient amount; that is, if the immediate disutility from stopping has reached a cut-off point, such that she violates the law notwithstanding the fact that but-for the addiction she would have obeyed the law. The addicted criminal trades off the heightened immediate disutility from obeying the law against the reduction in total utility due to the negative internalities—including expected sanctions. After setting forth the rational criminal addiction theory, the article develops a number of legal implications that follow from the theory.


This article extends the standard law and economics account of criminal misconduct by allowing for offenders who become rationally addicted to criminal misconduct, and using this very fact to explain the decision-making process of career and habitual criminals. Of course, not all repeat offenders are addicted to criminal misconduct; in some instances each act of misconduct is independent of the other. The crimes of an episodic repeat offender can be analyzed using the standard approach, given that if we understand one instance, we understand all of them. Even when a series of crimes are interconnected, an offender will become addicted only if committing a crime in the current period increases the marginal benefits from re-offending in the following period. However, one can imagine cases in which past misconduct reduces the marginal utility of re-offending. For example, a youth may engage in a series of crimes and find out, after a while, that that the thrill is gone. Or a repeat offender may decide to stop because, given her past history, offending in the current period will increase the risk of detection, or the aggregate expected sanctions given all her previous crimes. Moreover, an offender may engage in repeated misconduct that produces negative internalities, not because she is addicted but because of systematic, but independent rationality mistakes.

That notwithstanding, some repeat offenders exhibit the standard characteristics of addicts in other areas, and thus it becomes important to understand the underlying dynamics. For one thing, the idealized rational offender of the standard law and economics account behaves very differently than a crime-addict—even a “rationally addicted” one. There is a second caveat to keep in mind. Even if one can show that a significantly large subset of the repeat offender comprises crime addicts, it does not necessarily follow that society has to intervene to rectify the problem. Moreover, in a world populated by episodic and addicted repeat offenders, a lawmaker has to take into account how changes in criminal sanctions or enforcement practices can have a negative spillover effect  on the episodic criminal population. However, the theory developed in this article helps why repeat offenders get penalized  more harshly, something that the standard account can not explain. It also helps explain the repeated ratcheting-up of criminal sanctions in certain areas to deal with perceived deterrence shortfalls. Under the standard account, a lawmaker should ratchet-up criminal sanctions only if she discovers the harm caused by the outlawed behavior is greater than originally believed. Finally, the theory provides new explanations for why society spends so much on enforcement and why it incapacitates offenders  who have sufficient wealth to optimal criminal fines.

We know that sentencing is a big driver of the prison population. Let’s work to return discretion to the Judiciary. No more closed-door, backroom deals by unaccountable prosecutors. We need everyone’s help to do this.

Mahalo for caring about justice and for remembering all our people serving sentences near and far…

3 New Reports: Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime; A “HOLOCAUST IN SLOW MOTION?”; Race and Punishment

Some really interesting studies have just been released!

Fewer Prisoners, Less Crime: A Tale of Three States
The Sentencing Project, July 2014, 11 pages

“Although the pace of criminal justice reform has accelerated at both the federal  and state levels in the past decade, current initiatives have had only a modest effect on the size of the prison population. But over this period, three states – New York, New Jersey, and California – have achieved prison population reductions in the range of 25%. They have also seen their crime rates generally decline at a faster pace than the national average.”


  • New York and New Jersey led the nation by reducing  their prison populations by 26% between 1999 and 2012, while the nationwide state prison population increased by 10%.
  • California downsized its prison population by 23% between 2006 and 2012. During this period, the nationwide state prison population decreased by just 1%.
  • During their periods of decarceration, violent crime rates fell at a greater rate in these three states than they did nationwide. Between 1999-2012, New York and New Jersey’s violent crime rate fell by 31% and 30%, respectively, while the national rate decreased by 26%. Between 2006-2012, California’s violent crime rate drop of 21% exceeded the national decline of 19%.
  • Property crime rates also decreased in New York and New Jersey more than they did nationwide, while California’s reduction was slightly lower than the national average. Between 1999-2012, New York’s property crime rate fell by 29% and New Jersey’s by 31%, compared to the national decline of 24%. Between 2006-2012, California’s property crime drop of 13% was slightly lower than the national reduction of 15%.

These prison population reductions have come about through a mix of changes in policy and practice designed to reduce admissions to prison and lengths of stay. The experiences of these states reinforce that criminal justice policies, and not crime rates, are the prime drivers of changes in prison populations. They also demonstrate that it is possible to substantially reduce prison populations without harming public safety.


At least in three states we now know that the prison population can be reduced by about 25% with little or no adverse effect on public safety. Individual circumstances vary by state, but policymakers should explore the reforms in New York, New Jersey, and California as a guide for other states.

There is also no reason why a reduction of 25% should be considered the maximum that might be achieved. Even if every  state and the federal government were able to produce such reductions, that would still leave the United States with an incarceration rate of more than 500 per 100,000 population – a level 3-6 times that of most industrialized nations.

In recent years a broader range of proposals has emerged for how to reduce the prison population and by various scales of decarceration. In a recent right/left commentary Newt Gingrich and Van Jones describe how they will “be working together to explore ways to reduce the prison population substantially in the next decade.”31 The experiences of New York, New Jersey, and California demonstrate that it is possible to achieve substantial reductions in mass incarceration without compromising public safety.

While many jurisdictions are reforming their policies, Hawai`i passed a mandatory bill last session (HB 2205) that the Governor signed (even though he says he is opposed to mandatory sentencing). We managed to get an option for probation in the bill, but to think that Hawai`i would even consider mandatory sentences is really disheartening. And now the no-contact visits and the striped uniforms at Halawa and the lack of action on the promise of Justice Reinvestment mandate that WE PUMP UP THE VOLUME SO THAT OUR LEGISLATURE UNDERSTANDS THAT WE ARE HEADED IN THE WRONG DIRECTION.  Look at the 3 states in this report – reduced prison population and reduced crime.


A “HOLOCAUST IN SLOW MOTION?” America’s Mass Incarceration and the Role of Discretion
Mark William Osler, University of St. Thomas – School of Law (Minnesota)
Mark W. Bennett, U.S. District Court (Northern District of Iowa)
7 DePaul Journal for Social Justice 117 (2014)U of St. Thomas (Minnesota) Legal Studies Research Paper No. 14-30, 62 pages

Numbers don’t lie: America has suffered an explosion in imprisonment that has been fundamentally unrelated to actual crime levels. In this article, a federal District Court Judge and a former federal prosecutor examine the roots of this explosion with a focus on the discretion of Congress, the United States Sentencing Commission, federal prosecutors, and judges. This dark period may be in its twilight, though, and the authors conclude by describing specific actions each of these four groups could take to dismantle the cruel machinery of mass incarceration.


If there is an arc to history, we are perched upon it at a cresting point as the gravity of reason pulls us toward justice. It has been a long and painful trip for our nation, with prisons filled, families divided and destroyed, urban communities devastated, narcotics proliferated and all of these tragedies abetted by the inaction of those with the power to change things—Congress, the DOJ, the Sentencing Commission, and federal judges.

That inaction, however, seems to have ended. This last year has seen conscience move judges to reject harsh sentences and speak more publicly about what they see, the Sentencing Commission consider backing down from the too-strict measures of the narcotics guidelines, Congress ponder major and retroactive changes and even the DOJ, the most intractable of all, become a powerful force for change.

For reformers, there is a bit of irony and a lot of joy in the fact that the boldest call for reform has come not from an academic or an activist, but from the Attorney General himself. In his August 12, 2013, speech to the American Bar Association, he made no secret of the fact that a realignment of policy is in the process, one that is aimed squarely at the problem of overincarceration:

It’s time — in fact, it’s well past time — to address. . . unwarranted disparities by considering a fundamentally new approach . . . we must face the reality that, as it stands, our system is in too many respects broken. The course we are on is far from sustainable. And it is our time — and our duty —to identify those areas we can improve in order to better advance the cause of justice for all Americans.

As the so-called “war on drugs” enters its fifth decade, we need . . . to usher in a new approach. And with an outsized, unnecessarily large prison population, we need to ensure that incarceration is used to punish, deter, and rehabilitate — not merely to warehouse and forget.

Today, a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps too many Americans and weakens too many communities. And many aspects of our criminal justice system may actually exacerbate these problems, rather than alleviate them.

It’s clear — as we come together today — that too many Americans go to too many prisons for far too long, and for no good law enforcement reason. . .

The bottom line is that, while the aggressive enforcement of federal criminal statutes remains necessary, we cannot simply prosecute or incarcerate our way to becoming a safer nation.

Today — together — we must declare that we will no longer settle for such an unjust and unsustainable status quo . . . And we must resolve — as a people — to take a firm stand . . . for justice.

This is our chance — to bring America’s criminal justice system in line with our most sacred values.This is our opportunity — to define this time, our time, as one of progress and innovation.

This is our promise — to forge a more just society.

When it is the leader of the nation’s federal prosecutors who makes the most eloquent statement towards justice and proportionality, we are living in interesting and very hopeful times. Left to be seen, of course, is whether or not this vision will become a reality. For that to happen, there are many of us — on the bench, in the academy, in Congress and within the bar —who must accept responsibility for the mess we have made and humbly move forward to a better solution. As Martin Luther King, Jr., so often reminded us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” However, as the history of the rise of mass incarceration in America has taught us — the arc does not bend on its own.

Judge Mark Bennett (Not Hawai`i’s former AG) has been writing and speaking about reforming sentencing. He was at the Law School last year. We need more brave jurists and attorneys to speak out for justice and sentencing reform.


RACE AND PUNISHMENT: Racial Perceptions Of Crime And Support For Punitive Policies
The Sentencing Project, September 3, 2014

This report examines how racial perceptions of crime are a key cause of the severity of punishment in the United States. Race and Punishment: Racial Perceptions of Crime and Support for Punitive Policies, authored by Nazgol Ghandnoosh, Ph.D., research analyst at The Sentencing Project, synthesizes two decades of research revealing that white Americans’ strong associations of crime with blacks and Latinos are related to their support for punitive policies that disproportionately impact people of color.

Coming on the heels of the tragic events in Ferguson, Missouri, the report demonstrates that the consequences of white Americans’ strong associations of crime with blacks and Latinos extend far beyond policing.

Key findings of the report include:

  • White Americans overestimate the proportion of crime committed by people of color, and associate people of color with criminality. For example, white respondents in a 2010 survey overestimated the actual share of burglaries, illegal drug sales, and juvenile crime committed by African Americans by 20-30%.
  • Studies have shown that whites who associate crime with blacks and Latinos are more likely to support punitive policies – including capital punishment and mandatory minimum sentencing – than whites with weaker racial associations of crime.
  • These patterns help to explain why whites are more punitive than blacks and Latinos even though they are less likely to be victims of crime. In 2013, a majority of whites supported the death penalty for someone convicted of murder, while half of Hispanics and a majority of blacks opposed this punishment.
  • Racial perceptions of crime not only influence public opinion about criminal justice policies, they also directly influence the work of criminal justice practitioners and policymakers who operate with their own often-unintentional biases.

The report recommends proven interventions for the media, policymakers, and criminal justice professionals to reduce racial perceptions of crime and mitigate their effects on the justice system. These include addressing disparities in crime reporting, reducing the severity and disparate impact of criminal sentencing, and tackling racial bias in the formal policies and discretionary decisions of criminal justice practitioners.

Isn’t it great that all these reports are coming out supporting CAP’s decades long positions to improve the quality of justice?  We are definitely on the right side of history!

 Mahalo for caring about all of our people serving sentences near and far and for their families, as well. They are the invisibly incarcerated and we love and support them all!


Hawai`i Moves Backward


From Kat:

As you might have heard, Halawa has not only eliminated contact visits, now they have placed most of their imprisoned population in striped uniforms:

  • 4637996_Gred & white stripes: closed custody
  • blue & white stripes: protective custody
  • green & white stripes: workline
  • black & white stripes: general population

I was at Halawa a few months ago and noticed a couple of inmates in striped uniforms. They appeared to be part of a work crew, so I thought they were wearing work clothes. Everyone else I saw was in a solid color.  Then I was at the Women’s prison and some of the women were in dark green uniforms with HCF (Halawa Correctional Facility) printed on them.  I asked the department about this and was told that it was a pilot program requested by the Warden of Halawa to help staff identify the imprisoned population.


  • The origin of the black-and-white-striped prison uniform goes back to the Auburn prison system that started in New York in the 1820s
  • The uniforms made prisoners immediately recognizable as criminals, so if a prisoner escaped, the public could easily distinguish them from the non-criminal population.
  • Humiliation is exactly the point.
  • “You can trace the punitive mood of a nation by the uniforms it makes its inmates wear,” Jack Levin a professor of sociology and criminology at Northeastern University.
  • During the Depression, hordes of people wound up in prison for petty crimes, vagrancy and debt. “Everyone was poor. That was a great equalizer,” Levin said. “The idea of who was a criminal changed.”
  • “Inmates’ uniforms have almost always been about breaking them down, trying to stomp out their individuality,” said Kara Gotsch, who works for the ACLU’s National Prison Project.
  • “Uniforms are another way for institutions to emphasize they have control over the inmates.”

“You can trace the punitive mood of a nation by the uniforms it makes its inmates wear”

This is what I find so bizarre. The mood of the nation has been clearly expressed in countless polls and surveys about incarceration and the war on drugs. The majority believe that there are too many people in prison, mandatory sentencing is costly and ineffective, and long sentences actually promote criminality. So when communities are screaming that we need more programming in the community because the data show it is more effective both economically and socially than prison programming, why is Hawai`i moving backwards?  

According to the CRIME IN HAWAII 2012 (ANNUAL) released December 20, 2013, the burglary and motor vehicle theft rates in 2012 were at record low levels.  Honolulu’s total Index and property crime rates in 2012 were the lowest on record since the start of statewide data collection in 1975.

The news reported that this is not a pilot program. This is how the department has decided to further humiliate the imprisoned at Halawa and forever impact the lives of their children, who they can no longer hug on the few days when there is visitation.

I am saddened by the way we are treating our imprisoned brothers at Halawa. Wouldn’t it be amazing if we started focusing on people’s assets instead of always highlighting their deficits?  The stripes are a way to reinforce “you are a criminal” in the minds of the men. Imagine instead, really preparing people to successfully return to the community. We would have a very different system where every human being in its care and custody would be valued as a member of our community.

WE CAN DO THIS. We are Hawai`i. We care for and about each other. WE MUST RAISE OUR VOICES.

Here is the Hawai`i News Now story…

Halawa inmates wearing horizontally striped uniforms
Chris Tanaka, Sept. 2, 2014

HALAWA (HawaiiNewsNow) – It’s a new spin on an old look. Inmates in the Halawa Correctional Facility are wearing horizontally striped uniforms.

“The prison’s warden made the change citing safety concerns. Ted Sakai, the Director of the Department of Public Safety, gave his blessing. …

“‘Stripes is not the way to do it. That’s just debasing, humiliating and really inhumane” said Kat Brady of the Community Alliance on Prisons.

“She contends the stripes conjure images from history and pop culture which can have a negative effect on an inmate’s self esteem.

“’95 percent of the people are going to come back to the community. And to humiliate them and to make them feel like nothing and then return them to the community, what do we expect will happen?'”

Blurring the line and acing the public

Militarization-06-285x245Wow, plenty of information emerging about the militarization of  local police. This is something that we should all be very concerned about. The President said that the lines between the military and  local police should not be blurred. Too late for that.

Combat Gear Blurs Lines Between Cops and Military, in Ferguson & Hawaii
Sophie Cocke, Honolulu Civil Beat, August 22, 2014
The islands have received tens of millions of dollars from the Department of Homeland Security since the 9/11 terrorist attacks, fueling purchases of military-style weaponry.

“Last year, the Maui County Police Department rolled out a new, quarter-million-dollar “BearCat” — an armored vehicle capable of repelling .50 caliber projectiles.

“Marketed as a S.W.A.T or military attack and rescue vehicle, it would help keep officers safe during high-risk operations, Maui Police Chief Gary Yabuta said at the time.

“This week, William Juan, a spokesman for the Friendly Isle’s police department, said he didn’t know if the vehicle has ever been used and that he couldn’t talk about the types of special missions it might be suitable for.

“ ‘We don’t want to say what we do as far as our tactical operations and tactical plan,’ he  said, adding that it could jeopardize the safety of police officers.

“The Honolulu Police Department also has a BearCat used for responding to “chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive” attacks, according to the Police Department’s 2009 annual report.

“HPD has also acquired millions of dollars worth of tactical gear and security equipment, including a high-tech, mobile command center, acoustic devices used for controlling crowds that emit high-pitched tones capable of causing hearing loss and thousands of pepper spray projectiles, taser cartridges and bean bag ammunition, government reports and records show.

“The increasing use of military equipment, weapons, and tactics against our own citizens is unacceptable and must stop.” — U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard

As protests continue in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of an unarmed teenager by a police officer, national attention has turned to the militarization of police departments across the country. Images coming out of Ferguson have shown police officers lined up in camouflage, wearing body armor and toting assault rifles. And the military-style vehicles makes the scenes look more like a war zone than a domestic protest.”


Claire McCaskill to head militarization hearing, Lucy McCalmont, August 21, 2014

“’We need to demilitarize this situation — this kind of response by the police has become the problem instead of the solution,’ McCaskill said, while in Ferguson last week.”


Tear Gas, Stun Grenades, Sound Cannons: Companies Profiting From Police Crackdowns Like Ferguson
Alternet, Alex Kane, August 21, 2014

“Whoever paid for it, the companies that make tear-gas are sure to benefit from the Ferguson demonstrations. Two corporations’ tear-gas products have been fired on demonstrators in recent days: Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) and DefenseTechnology. CTS, headquartered in Pennsylvania, is well-known for being a leading supplier of tear gas around the world, including to the governments of Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, which buy the weapons with the generous amounts of U.S. military aid given to them. Defense Technology, also based in Pennsylvania, has likewise profited from tear gas sold to Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, in addition to Yemen, Turkey and Tunisia.

Yet another company that will profit from the tensions in Missouri is Taser International.”


Police often provoke protest violence, UC researchers find
SFGate, Kurtis Alexander, August 22, 2014

“…’Everything starts to turn bad when you see a police officer come out of an SUV and he’s carrying an AR-15,’ said Nick Adams, a sociologist and fellow at UC Berkeley’s Institute for Data Science who leads the Deciding Force Project. “It just upsets the crowd.”

Adams said many law enforcement agencies aren’t aware that they set the tone of a protest and end up inflaming it. …”

Seattle’s Former Police Chief Speaks Out Against Police Brutaility, Leighton Woodhouse, August 18, 2014

How Government Blacklists Journalists From Accessing the Truth
AlterNet, David Sirota, August 21, 2014
The public is being systematically divorced from public policy, which is exactly what too many elected officials want.

“As states move to hide details of government deals with Wall Street, and as politicians come up with new arguments to defend secrecy, a study released earlier this month revealed that many government information officers block specific journalists they don’t like from accessing information. The news comes as 47 federal inspectors general sent a letter to lawmakers criticizing “serious limitations on access to records” that they say have “impeded” their oversight work. …”

This is why citizen action is so important. WE ARE THE GOVERNMENT.

Prison Building & Public-Private Partnerships (P3s)

Your voice really matters on this issue! Please make your voice heard!

From Kat:

YOUR VOICE MATTERSSince the Hawai`i Legislature passed a resolution to issue an RFP (Request for Proposals) to construct new correctional facilities in Hawai`i, corporate prison companies like CCA (Corrections Corporation of America) and GEO (2 of the largest corporate prison profiteers) are salivating to get into Hawai`i. They have been trying for 20 years to gain a foothold here. Almost 1500 men are currently in a CCA corporate prison in AZ and as the population of our men has dropped there, retaliation appears to have increased. One of our men in AZ  is in administration segregation (lockdown) merely for contacting me, although he has a letter from one of the Hawai`i monitors allowing the contact (nice of them to acknowledge that we still have constitutional rights). One tactic is to throw folks in SHIP (Special Housing Incentive Program), a purported ‘voluntary’ program (it’s really lockdown: SHIP 1=locked down 23 hours a day; SHIP 2=locked down 22 hours a day; SHIP 3=locked down for a bit less – 20 or 21 hours a day).  It actually was a “program” for gang members who couldn’t live in general population, but this 18 month-3-step  ‘program’  is a convenient way of keeping the beds warm and OUR $$$ flowing into CCA’s pocket.

So we have been doing some research on Public-Private Partnerships (P3s) and they are certainly a mixed bag. Our fear is that Hawai`i can be so easily duped by the high-priced, high-powered lawyers who negotiate these deals day in and day out.

The public has got to get involved as our resources are traded out from under our noses.

Here is a message from Lorenn Walker, who started a petition against increasing prison beds:


The state of Hawai‘i wants to spend about $1 billion on new prison bed construction. It plans on imprisoning over 6000 people for a state population of about 1.3 million. This large prison population makes Hawai’i less safe because the rate of repeating crime increases when people are imprisoned and the communities that they come from and usually return, suffer continual erosion. Instead of spending a $1 billion on a new prison, Hawai‘i should implement Justice Reinvestment, Restorative Justice, and increase community programming for safer communities.

That’s why I created a petition to The Hawaii State House, The Hawaii State Senate, and Governor Neil Abercrombie, which says: “Stop the movement to build a new prison in Hawai‘i.”

Will you sign this petition? Click here:

Lorenn Walker, J.D., M.P.H.
P.O. Box 489
Waialua, Hawai‘i, 96791
Ph & text: (808) 218-3712
Skype: lorennwalker

“Each individual has a universal responsibility to shape institutions to serve human needs.”  – The Dalai Lama

I’ll start off with an abbreviated excerpt from the counter-proposal to the RFI (Request for Information) that the Department of Public Safety issued in November written by Community Alliance on Prisons and Lorenn Walker of Hawai`i Friends of Justice & Civic Education. (If you would like a PDF version of the 13- page document, let me know and I’ll send it to you.)


We understand that this proposal is for building – not operating – facilities. Nevertheless, Hawai`i’s experience with CCA should inform any decisions about contracting with this corporation. We highlight a few of CCA’s problems:

  • Shoddy Construction
  • Expansion Spending
  • Labor Problems
  • Ethical Problems
  • Lobbying Against Transparency
  • Conversion to a REIT – Real Estate Investment Trust
  • Financial Woes
  • Expansion Spending

CAP is definitely staying on top of this issue and we hope that you sign the petition and send it around to your own circles of associates, friends, and family anywhere in the world. It is important that the administration knows that people are watching.

Here are some very enlightening articles, including a 4-part series of articles about P3s from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette published a few weeks ago:

We Must Protect Taxpayers in Public-Private Partnerships
David Cohen, August 20, 2014

“P3s that don’t include adequate protections can quickly turn into disasters.

  • agreement must be carefully and thoughtfully crafted.
  • the public must maintain democratic control of infrastructure as well as the ability to make public policy decisions in the future.
  • there must be robust and broad participation in decision-making processes to ensure P3 projects are chosen to meet community, employment, and economic needs.
  • P3s must be fully transparent and accountable to public institutions.”

The ‘P3′ dilemma: How effective are public-private partnerships?
By Len Boselovic / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 10, 2014
The first of a four-part series

“… Public-private partnerships are the intersection where investors eager to cash in on America’‍s $3.6 trillion infrastructure needs collide with taxpayers and elected officials unwilling or unable to provide the money. P3s are based on long-term agreements that turn over to the private sector infrastructure traditionally built and operated by the public sector.

“They are government by another name. …”

The ‘P3′ dilemma:Partnerships often fall short of taxpayers’ expectations
By Len Boselovic / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 11, 2014
The second of a four-part series

“…“This is the most corporate welfared-up industry that there is,” said Lee Cokorinos, a public interest research consultant based in Silver Spring, Md.”

The ‘P3′ dilemma: Bridge initiative promises savings and efficiency
By Len Boselovic / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, August 12, 2014
The third of a four-part series.

“… Many P3s are not living up to the expectations of investors, the governments that sponsored them, and the public. Additionally, there are concerns lawmakers and the public are not getting enough information about the terms of the contracts.”

The ‘P3′ dilemma: States learn partnerships come with hazards
By Len Boselovic / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette,August 13, 2014
The fourth of a four-part series.

Below is the P3 project ratings by the American Society of Civil Engineers:

Am. Society of Civil Engineers Ratings


Want to find out more about Medical Marijuana Dispensaries?

Our legislature passed a resolution to explore how Hawai`i could set up a statewide dispensary system for medical marijuana patients.

When Kat was in California recently, she had the opportunity to visit 2 well-run dispensaries and my report of those visits is below. First, an announcement of an event tomorrow at the Blaisdell. If this topic is ofinterest to you, I urge you to attend to get some real information. The flyer for the event is here.

Medical Marijuana Policy Advocates Announce Series of August Events on Oahu, Hawai‘i Island
HONOLULU, HI –The Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii and the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii (co-founders of the Medical Cannabis Coalition of Hawaii) have announced free, public events on medical marijuana policy in August. Light refreshments will be served. RSVPs are requested by 8/20, walk ins welcome, space permitting.

  • Oahu, Saturday, 8/23/14: “Policy Perspectives on Medical Marijuana” featuring Robert Jacob, Mayor of Sebastopol, CA and Executive Director of Peace in Medicine, a non-profit healing center and cannabis dispensary, and James Anthony, a former Oakland City prosecutor, now a full time attorney specialized in medical cannabis dispensary land use law. 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Blaisdell Center Maui Room (second floor), 777 Ward Avenue.
  • Hilo, Sunday, 8/24/14: “Policy Perspectives on Medical Marijuana” repeats. 1:00 to 3:00 p.m., Hilo YWCA, 145 Ululani Street.

Kat’s report of the California dispensaries: A Tale of Two Dispensaries is here.

Aging in Prison: Why continual review of incarcerated people is so important!

screen_shot_2011-07-27_at_1.07.45_pmThe Crisis of the Aging Prison Population
The Crime Report, August 8, 2014

Unkind Life for Young and Old
The New York Times, August 7, 2014

“Prison is no country for old men, or women, but in New York and across the country, nearly a quarter million inmates are age 50 or older. “Someone who is 50 in prison has the medical issues that would face someone 10 years older,” Ms. Gaynes said. The number of inmates 55 or older quadrupled from 1995 to 2010, and is projected to keep swelling, according to “The High Cost of Low Risk: The Crisis of America’s Aging Prison Population,” a report released Thursday by Osborne.”

For Aging Inmates, Care Outside Prison Walls
Christine Vestal, Stateline, The PEW Charitable Trusts, August 12, 2104

“Providing health care to an aging prison population is a large and growing cost for states. Not only do inmates develop debilitating conditions at a younger age than people who are not incarcerated, but caring for them in the harsh environment of prisons is far more expensive than it is on the outside.

“Of the 2.3 million adults in state and federal prisons, about 246,000 are 50 or older, according to the National Institute of Corrections. The U.S. currently spends more than $16 billion annually caring for these aging inmates, and their numbers are projected to grow dramatically in the next 15 years.

“’In a couple of years,” said Donna Strugar-Fritsch, a consultant with Health Management Associates, “this is the only thing people are going to be talking about.  It’s getting worse by the minute.’”

Without Reviews, Inmates Can Get Lost In U.S. Prison System
Laura Sullivan, NPR, April 5, 2013

This is an older story…and a sad one, indeed. It highlights the need for continual reviews of incarcerated individuals so no one gets lost in the bureaucracy. CAP is still working on a compassionate release system that is truly compassionate. Let’s hope the next administration will take this serious issues to heart.