HONOLULU – Acting Governor Shan Tsutsui today announced a series of neighbor island meetings to inform the efforts of Hawaii’s bipartisan, inter-branch working group tasked with making recommendations for the state’s juvenile justice system. The effort was launched in August in a joint news conference held by Gov. Neil Abercrombie, Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald, and state House and Senate leadership.
The group, led by House Committee on Human Services Chair Rep. Mele Carroll, Department of Human Services Deputy Director Barbara Yamashita, and Senior Family Court Judge R. Mark Browning, will convene discussions on Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Island (in Kona and Hilo) over the next two weeks to meet with stakeholders, share findings from the group’s work to date, and solicit local perspectives on juvenile justice issues from each island and across the state.
Comprised of policymakers, public safety professionals, and system stakeholders, the working group is analyzing the drivers of Hawaii’s juvenile justice system and assessing relevant state policies and practices. The end result will be a comprehensive package of policy recommendations intended to improve outcomes in juvenile cases, maintain public safety, and contain costs.
“Using data, research and local knowledge to craft policy, we will achieve better outcomes for our youth,” said Tsutsui. “Making the system work better for our youth and their families through less costly alternatives to confinement is key to putting Hawaii at the forefront of juvenile justice reforms.”
The Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF) houses all youth committed to a term in a secure state facility located in Kailua, Oahu. Of all youth sent to HYCF for an offense, 61 percent were committed for a misdemeanor, and many struggle with substance abuse, mental health, and family issues. The average bed in HYCF costs taxpayers more than $190,000 per year, and the most recent study revealed that 75 percent of youth exiting HYCF are re-adjudicated or reconvicted within three years of release.
“We need to make sure our juvenile justice system is targeted and effective in putting youth back on the right track and protecting public safety,” said Carroll. “Understanding what drives costs and recidivism in our system will ensure we are being proper stewards of both the taxpayer dollars and the youth entrusted to juvenile justice across Hawaii.”
In the 2013 fiscal year, 46 percent of youth sent to HYCF came from the neighbor islands. The working group is seeking input from the neighbor islands about commitments to HYCF, treatment services and programs, and strategies for reducing juvenile delinquency.
“We are spending this summer, fall and winter studying our system from top to bottom to understand current practices and outcomes for youth and public safety in Hawaii,” said Judge Robert Browning. “Our working group is going to take that analysis and issue recommendations for the future of juvenile justice in Hawaii to ensure the system lives up to the responsibility we have to our citizens and youth for years to come.”
The 20-member working group draws from all three branches of state government, and includes representatives of local government, prosecutors, law enforcement, probation officials, non-profit service providers, and other key juvenile justice stakeholder groups. The working group is receiving technical assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ public safety performance project, and will present research findings and specific policy recommendations in December.
Neighbor Island meetings will be held:
• Oct. 18, 1:30 p.m., Maui (Conference Room 1, J. Walter Cameron Center)
• Oct. 21, 1 p.m., Kauai (Multi-Purpose Room, Kauai Circuit Court, Puuhonoa Kaulike Building)
• Oct. 23, 10 a.m., Kona (Mayor’s Conference Room, Building C, 2nd Floor, West Hawaii Civic Center)
• Oct. 24, 1 p.m., Hilo (Jury Assembly Room, Hale Kaulike)