Inmates on Mainland to cost Isles $50 million
By Kevin Dayton
Advertiser Big Island Bureau
By Kevin Dayton
The state is expected to spend more than $50 million annually to house prison inmates on the Mainland, and will have an entire Arizona prison dedicated to Hawai'i convicts under newly signed contracts with the Corrections Corp. of America.
The state has been paying $40 million annually for CCA to confine about 1,900 convicts on the Mainland because there is no room for them in Hawai'i prisons. State lawmakers this year authorized corrections officials to boost that total to more than 2,500 inmates.
When the additional prisoners are sent to the Mainland, Hawai'i will have more convicted felons serving their sentences on the Mainland than in prisons here. Hawai'i already holds almost half of its prison population out of state, a larger percentage than any other state.
Shari Kimoto, administrator of the Mainland Branch of the state Department of Public Safety, said the 1,896-bed Saguaro Correctional Center under construction in Eloy, Ariz., will house all of the women and most of the men Hawai'i holds in other CCA prisons on the Mainland. Saguaro will be a "treatment-intensive" prison with an array of drug treatment and other rehabilitation programs that exceed anything available in Hawai'i prisons, Kimoto said.
The state also plans to rent nearly 500 beds in the new Red Rock Correctional Center next to the Saguaro site. That will consolidate Hawai'i prisoners serving sentences in Arizona, Kentucky, Mississippi and Oklahoma.
Prison officials expect to begin transferring inmates from other Mainland facilities to Red Rock over the next three months, Kimoto said, with all of the Hawai'i inmates moved into Saguaro by July 1. She said that will make it easier for Hawai'i officials to monitor the prisons, and will make it at least somewhat easier for inmates' families to visit them.
The new contracts increase the price Hawai'i pays per inmate from $44 to $54 per day to as much as $58.43 in the fiscal year that begins July 1, 2007. The new contracts cover three years, with an option for another two.
The Red Rock prison will offer inmates very limited programs, and Kimoto said the state is considering using that facility to lock up active gang members or troublesome inmates.
The contract requires the Saguaro facility to offer programs in drug treatment, adult education, anger and stress management and other areas that can improve chances for parole.
"If they're serious about really getting help . . . and are serious about getting out of the system, this is the place that's going to offer that," said Louise Kim McCoy, communications director for the Department of Public Safety.
The contract also requires increased nurse staffing, and allows Hawai'i to impose financial penalties if CCA fails to provide required drug treatment services or fails to staff the prison properly, Kimoto said.
The Saguaro facility will house up to 300 Hawai'i women, but they will have no contact with male prisoners, she said
Kat Brady, coordinator for the Community Alliance on Prisons, said inmates have a better chance if they maintain ties with families, and those bonds suffer when convicts are thousands of miles away.
"It's those kinds of connections and the connections with the community ... that's going to keep people out of prison," she said. "The more we banish people, the worse it gets."
Reach Kevin Dayton at firstname.lastname@example.org.