Report: Native Hawaiians overrepresented in prison

Published On: Dec 27 2012 04:40:00 PM HST

Native Hawaiians are overrepresented in prison and in every other stage of the criminal justice system.  That's according to a recent study by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Justice Policy Institute.

Click here for the full report.

A nine-member task force has announced 38 recommendations aimed at making significant changes to the problem.

In a recent study by OHA, Native Hawaiians make up 40 percent of those incarcerated and typically spend more time in jail.

"This is a tragic reality that cannot be denied," said Michael Broderick, chairman of the Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force.

"Is this a priority for the legislature?  If it’s a priority for the legislature, they will fund it."

- Michael Broderick, Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force chairman

In an effort to turn the numbers around, the state legislature created a Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force.

Statewide meetings over the summer and interviews with inmates were compiled into a 28-page report.

"Our report, although a good start, is just that.  A good start," said Broderick.

Among the 38 recommendations:

  • Mandatory training on what was called "unconscious bias" for all employees in the criminal justice system.
  • Early intervention programs for Native Hawaiians that start with the children of incarcerated parents.
  • The creation and maintenance of an inventory of services that address mental health, substance abuse, workforce development and housing.

"If appropriate programs are in place, we believe we can lower the recidivism and reduce the cost to taxpayers of the criminal justice system," said Kamana'opono Crabbe, CEO at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.

To answer the question of why there are so many Native Hawaiians in prison, the task force recommends an in-depth study.

"The legislature should give needed resources to the Department of Attorney General to study criminal history and criminal offense," said Broderick.

As for how the recommendations will be implemented, the task force said it's up to state lawmakers.

"Is this a priority for the legislature?  If it’s a priority for the legislature, they will fund it," said Broderick.

OHA has committed to support the work of the Task Force, but said the entire community must get involved to make a difference.

The recommendations will be presented to the Hawaii legislature this upcoming session.


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