“VIDEO: Passions boil over before OHA task force”

from Big Island Video News
Here for the VIDEO and original story.

HILO, Hawaii: The disproportionate number of Native Hawaiians who are in prison in Hawai’i and the U.S. mainland gave rise to passionate voices in Hilo on Saturday.

“Anger, tears, and prayer… a wide range of responses from a community that remains disturbed by an Office of Hawaiian Affairs report issued in 2010 entitled: The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System.

That’s why the 2012 Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force was on the Big Island. The team is holding a series of meetings aimed at identifying and supporting comprehensive solutions to this nagging issue.

According to the document, Native Hawaiians make up 24 percent of the general population of Hawai‘i, but 27 percent of all arrests, 33 percent of people in pretrial detention, 29 percent of people sentenced to probation, 36 percent admitted to prison in 2009, 39 percent of the incarcerated population, 39 percent of releases on parole, and 41 percent of parole revocations.

The video highlights the community’s great concern with the number of Native Hawaiians incarcerated in out-of-state facilities. “The [OHA] report says that … [o]f the people in out of state facilities, 41 percent are Native Hawaiians.” One participant emphasized the difficulties families face in staying connected with those incarcerated out of state. She pointed out the expense of phone calls and the burden of those costs on poor families. She exclaimed, “Bring them home! They belong home! So we can visit with them, so we can let them know who they really are and not just a label.”

OHA CEO, Dr. Kamana’opono Crabbe, explained on the video, “It’s quite obvious, and a large voice from the Hawaiian community is to return Native Hawaiians from the continental U.S. who are currently incarcerated in facilities on the mainland to bring them home. That certainly, I can say, will be one of the recommendations as part of our report. I think we should take a look at some time frames, when that can happen. But we also need to develop a plan here in Hawaii so we can properly accommodate them. It may be a phased situation…that is what we have to evaluate – what is the plan and the time frame and what would be an appropriate process for returning them home.”

Early in the video, Crabbe also discussed the need to see a continuum of services in many communities – from within the correction facilities, through the re-entry period, and to long-term services that help sustain people out in the community, like employment and counseling services.

The video concludes with some discussion of HB 2848, signed in June 2012 by Governor Abercrombie, which directs the Department of Public Safety to cooperate with Ohana Ho‘opakele and other restorative justice groups to prepare a plan for the creation of a pu‘uhonua on the Big Island. Sam Kaleleiki “was happy with the news a few weeks ago during this benefit for his organization, Ohana Ho’opakele,…but he remains skeptical.” On the video, Kaleleiki stated, “I know we goin’ be disappointed because they are full of tricks. In that bill, they somehow shoved it under the coverage of words and things like this. They still gonna build a prison. And we don’t want a prison, we don’t want any fence, we don’t want any walls, we don’t want nothing that restricts. All we want is a pu‘uhonua. I’m surprised we got this far.”

Crabbe explained, “Pu‘uhonua concept is a traditional concept of Native Hawaiian culture. It not only is a city of refuge, but it is a sacred place where one is able to escape punishment, but also goes through a process of healing to make amends. That has been talked about quite a bit in our Native Hawaiian community. And I think there is a larger voice of support for a pu‘uhonua, an actual formal pu‘uhonua, as part of the correctional system. And, right now, there’s many different models of what that would look like. But, certainly it would incorporate more traditional rituals and customs that I think are not only appropriate but for Native Hawaiians culturally they’ll be more comfortable with. So, with the growing support we can probably institutionalize it and be part of not only our recommendation, but for future consideration as a legitimate program.”

Here for more information on OHA’s Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force Neighbor Island Tour, including dates, locations, contact information, and background information.

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