Softball at the Legislature

From Kat:

Today’s post contains the notes (I taped and transcribed) from the Public Safety Budget Briefing.

I am still in the midst of transcribing the Q&A and will send them out when I’m done (it is so tedious, but so important for us to see where folks are coming from). I don’t usually title my posts, but this title, “Softball at the Legislature” just seems so sadly appropriate…

 

SOFTBALL AT THE LEGISLATURE

Department of Public Safety (DPS) gets a free pass from the money committees

CAP Notes from January 12, 2015 DPS Budget Briefing

Part 1: Presentation from the Department of Public Safety

Download DPS briefing materials here:http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2016/TESTIMONY/Info_Testimony_WAM-FIN_01-12-16_PSD.pdf

For the second year in a row Public Safety got a free pass from the budget committees. Last year’s briefing was 20 minutes and this year’s was about an hour.

Wow! For an agency with a multitude of problems and that spends more than $240,000,000 a year of taxpayer money, that is indeed amazing. Not many questions were asked by the few legislators that stayed. What is interesting, is that UH went before DPS and got raked over the coals for hours; yet DPS was treated with kid gloves for about an hour and 10 minutes.

Here are CAP notes thus far…

 Nolan Espinda, Director:

The largest challenge is jail overcrowding.  Institutions are deteriorating at a great rate. We haven’t had a new institution since 1987 when Halawa Correctional Facility was built. A big topic that will surely take up a lot of our time during the course of this legislative session is the replacement of OCCC. Originally for the replacement and relocation of the current OCCC is widely accepted but specifically identifying the site at Halawa Correctional Facility we are hopeful that the requested enabling legislation will expedite and economize the delivery process from the traditional process model of Design, Bid and Build.

Population management is also a big challenge. With our needs specifically targeted toward the jails, it is incumbent upon my staff at the correctional facilities and in our central office to utilize every opportunity to try to speed the Justice Reinvestment Initiative. It is only through aggressive implementation of the dictates of JRI that we will be able bring people back from the mainland, program them effectively through our minimum and community correctional facilities and hopefully successfully parole them out with as low a recidivism rate as possible.

An urgent need is for the law enforcement approach, law enforcement presence and the coverage of the state capitol as well as the surrounding capitol district.

Also urgent in need is our community policing outreach with our deputy sheriffs, especially as it applies to contacts with the homeless community throughout the island and throughout the state

Amongst our budget requests is a request for the federal fund cap raising with some of our program specialists, program needs in the education area. We have no problem spending the money granted to us and we ask that the cap be raised so that we can expend even more of the money granted to us by the government.

Our budget requests include, um, trade-offs and transfer requests, the aforementioned ceiling requests and 12 additional deputy sheriffs for the services I’ve described, 5 additional positions for electronic monitoring to be centralized at OCCC. We are also requesting adjustments and an increase in operational costs for rent due to the relocation of DPS itself. We no longer will have the luxury of being in a building we don’t have to pay rent for. As of this year we are gonna have to pay rent on that building, and in fact have been urged to relocate elsewhere as I am sure OHA will have better use of the property and the building itself. We are also asking for increased utility costs for MCCC and for vehicles and maintenance for our state sheriffs division.

That, in short, highlights the requests moving forward. I’ll be glad to answer any questions for the budget itself, my vision for the department of public safety, or anything else.

Note: Expedite and Economize …Well that is interesting…We will be reminding the government that two laws passed in 1998 regarding a new correctional facility:

In 1998 the Hawai`i State Legislature passed two laws that are now in statute:

  • 353-16.37  Community partnering. Regardless of the method for funding new prison facilities, the department of public safety shall develop and implement a community partnering process to be incorporated into the request for proposal; this partnering process shall include a community hearing for the purpose of soliciting community input. Further, a community benefit and enhancement package shall be developed by the department and the affected community to mitigate the negative aspects of building a correctional facility in the community.  The benefit and enhancement package may include but is not limited to:

     (1)  Infrastructure improvements;

     (2)  Job training programs or improvements to schools and health care facilities;

     (3)  Social programs; and

     (4)  Other government functions. [L 1998, c 227, pt of §5; am L 1999, c 134, §4]

The legislative intent is clear. The legislature has directed the Department of Public Safety to involve the community at the earliest stage of planning. The Department of Public Safety has not done this.

  • 353-16.35  Development or expansion of in-state correctional acilities. (a)  Notwithstanding any other law to the contrary, the governor, with the assistance of the director, may negotiate with any person for the development or expansion of private in-state correctional facilities or public in-state turnkey correctional facilities to reduce prison overcrowding; provided that if an environmental assessment or environmental impact statement is required for a proposed site or for the expansion of an existing correctional facility under section 343-5, then notwithstanding the time periods specified for public review and comments under section 343-5, the governor shall accept public comments for a period of sixty days following public notification of either an environmental assessment or an environmental impact statement.

     (b)  Any development or expansion proposal shall address the construction of the facility separate from the operation of the facility and shall consider and include:

     (1)  The percentage of low, medium, and high security inmates and the number of prison beds needed to incarcerate each of the foregoing classes of inmates;

     (2)  The facility’s impact on existing infrastructure, and an assessment of improvements and additions that will be necessary;

     (3)  The facility’s impact on available modes of transportation, including airports, roads, and highways; and

     (4)  A useful life costs analysis.

(c)    For the purposes of this section, “useful life costs” means an economic evaluation that compares alternate building and operating methods and provides information on the design, construction methods, and materials to be used with respect to efficiency in building maintenance and facilities operation. [L 1998, c 227, pt of §5; am L 2003, c 221, §1]

The purpose of public outreach is to help ensure that a comprehensive environmental impact document would be prepared that provides a firm basis for the decision-making process. The intent of the public outreach process is to:

Inform agency representatives, elected officials, and interested members of the public about the proposed action, the roles and responsibilities of PSD in implementing the proposed action, as well as activities to ensure compliance with HRS 343.

If the plan is to run amok over the community, that is not gonna work! To date, there has been no communication with the community about this plan. CAP submitted a proposal containing a panoply of things that could be done before anything is built. Implementing justice reinvestment to reduce the population is one way, sentencing reform is a big one…reforming all sentences, increasing community-based programs, etc. We need a courageous legislature to tackle these issues. We cannot build prisons and jails as our way out of our social problems. We need thoughtful, data-driven and well-researched public policies.

If this budget briefing is any indication of what 2016 will bring, I would say that WE HAVE OUR WORK CUT OUT FOR US. Legislators appear to be quite willing to let DPS do whatever they want. Their budget request for 2017 is $276,000,000 and not a single legislator asked about the Director’s vision for DPS or where they got the “existing funds” they used for electronic monitoring. Or how they spent the $1 million set aside for community-based programming in 2012. (They spent $450,000 on in-prison programs (not the purpose of the $1m) and $550,000 is sitting in Kona because they can’t find a service provider.)  This is an agency that is notorious for not spending appropriations for their intended use. They seem to have money stashed in all sorts of places for things they want to do. And they will keep doing this until we demand accountability and transparency. They want the ceiling lifted on how many federal funds they can access, but what about the federal money they received for reentry?  There is no evidence to date on reentry programs, only talk.  Talk, Talk, Talk. They talk, we pay. Are you satisfied with this scheme?

This briefing was so dis-heartening. As taxpayers, we must demand the same accountability from DPS that they demand from the incarcerated individuals in their care and custody.

CAP must be the beacon that shines the light on these dark corners of public policy. Please join our Journey for Justice! We really need to pump up the volume in 2016…a very important year. Make it the Year of the Community!

SPEAK TRUTH TO POWER!

Love,

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