Kulani prison may reopen

The Hawaii Tribune Herald reports that the state is considering reopening the Kulani prison, which was closed and converted into a military school.  Advocates of prison reform have called for the reopening of Kulani, which was once the most successful sex offender treatment program in Hawai’i:

Closed nearly two years ago to save money, Hawaii Island’s former prison could be reopened to house up to 200 inmates now incarcerated on the mainland.

Gov. Neil Abercrombie is considering whether to use the old Kulani Correctional Facility in has plan to reduce the number of prisoners Hawaii has sent out of state, Abercrombie spokeswoman Donalyn Dela Cruz said Friday.

“Kulani … is definitely, from what I understand, being considered to be reopened,” Dela Cruz said.

In June, Abercrombie announced a criminal justice plan that involves expanding prison space to accommodate some of the one-third of Hawaii’s inmates now serving time in mainland prisons.


Last November, the 614-acre prison property was put under state Department of Defense control for use as a training camp for at-risk teens. The camp, called the Hawaii National Guard’s Youth ChalleNGe Academy — Kulani, graduated its first 41-member class in June.


The decision to close Kulani was “ill-advised” and resulted in Hawaii investing in mainland states, Jeanne Ohta, executive director of the Drug Policy Forum of Hawaii, said in her testimony before the Senate Committee on Public Safety, Government Operations, and Military Affairs.

“Kulani was also the largest sex offender treatment program in Hawaii and the most successful offender treatment program in the nation, with less than a 2 percent recidivism rate since 1988,” Ohta said during the March meeting. “Why close such a successful facility?”


Talk of reopening the prison has left the Youth ChalleNGe Academy’s Big Island operation with an uncertain future, statewide program Director Rick Campbell said following the June 27 graduation ceremony for its inaugural class.

It’s possible the academy could be moved to the recently renovated Keaukaha Military Reservation located across the street from Hilo International Airport, he said.


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