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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, April 22, 2010

State opts not to close Hālawa prison module

By Derrick DePledge
Advertiser Government Writer

State House and Senate budget negotiators agreed last night not to close a module at Hālawa Correctional Facility, a move that would have sent more prisoners to the Mainland to reduce costs and help with the state's budget deficit.

The Senate's draft had proposed cutting Hālawa's $23 million operating budget by more than one-third, which could have forced the prison to close a module and ship another 240 prisoners to the Mainland.

The state Department of Public Safety and the United Public Workers, the union that represents correctional officers, opposed the budget cut. UPW estimated that 70 correctional officers could have lost their jobs if a module closed, although the Senate believed the number was lower.

Budget negotiators decided against the cut.

"It was always my position to take some kind of control over the spending and the cost," said state Sen. Donna Mercado Kim, D-14th (Hālawa, Moanalua, Kamehameha Heights), who had proposed the cut and was a target of criticism from the union.

Kim said negotiators made a minimal $500,000 reduction in overtime, but she said lawmakers hope to work with the department and the union on ways to contain prison costs.

"I'm very pleased with the outcome of the negotiations of the conference committee," said Dayton Nakanelua, the UPW's state director. "While it is very satisfying for our members directly effected at Hālawa, we look at this as being good for all of our members in corrections and for the people of Hawai'i."