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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted at 11:32 a.m., Wednesday, December 11, 2002

Justice dispensed unequally, survey finds

By Curtis Lum
Advertiser Staff Writer

Many Hawai'i residents feel the state's justice resources are unequally distributed based on location and ethnic background.

They also feel there is an imbalance of power in government decision-making between "insiders" and ordinary citizens.

Those were just two of the results of a survey conducted by the Hawai'i Justice Foundation that was released today. The "Issues of Justice in Hawai'i Study 2002" sought to identify themes of justice that were strongest among O'ahu leaders and the state's residents.

The study consisted of two parts, the first involving O'ahu community leaders who met in May to generate 10 statements relating to justice in Hawai'i. The issues were then used in a statewide survey to test residents' responses to the statements.

Many of the 505 residents surveyed said they felt disengaged from government and key institutions. When asked, "When you think of issues of justice in Hawai'i, which comes to mind?" more residents cited corruption among government leaders than any other issue, according to the survey.

The survey also showed that residents feel that some communities particularly in rural areas lack sufficient access to resources and that educating the state's business leaders about the needs of these communities is a priority.

The Waimanalo, Wai'anae and Kalihi communities were intentionally oversampled because of their large Native Hawaiian populations. Hawai'i Justice Foundation officials said they were surprised that Hawaiian issues were overshadowed in importance by issues such as treatment of drug offenders, homelessness, and the diversion of natural resources away from local communities.

Here are the 10 justice issues and the percentage of residents who ranked them from eight to 10 on a 10-point scale:

• Unequal distribution of resources based on location and ethnic background; for example, unequal funding of public schools in different communities, 61 percent.

• Imbalance of power in government decision-making between "insiders" and ordinary citizens, 59 percent.

• Educating Hawai'i's business leaders about the problems of local communities, 56 percent.

• Homelessness in Hawai'i, 54 percent.

• Discrimination against underprivileged groups in the provision of state services, such as education, legal services, child protective services and healthcare, 53 percent.

• The issue of treating drug offenders vs. incarcerating them, 53 percent.

• Low participation in government by residents, as in Hawai'i's low voter turnout, 50 percent.

• Diverting natural resources away from local farming communities in favor of big business interests, 47 percent.

• Lack of access to legal services by low- and moderate-income residents, 46 percent.

• Native Hawaiian issues, such as sovereignty and ceded lands, 37 percent.

The Hawai'i Justice Foundation is a nonprofit organization that monitors the legal needs of Hawai'i's low- and moderate-income people and finds financial, technical and organizational support to meet those needs.