New Task Force Targets Cost of Crime

Gov. Neil Abercrombie, D-HI, pledged during his 2010 campaign to bring Hawaii’s prisoners home from mainland prisons. But with tough fiscal times in the state, a weak economy and the costs much higher to house prisoners locally rather than in private mainland prisons, that plan has been delayed.

In addition, Hawaii’s prisons are already overcrowded, and when the issue of constructing a new prison in the state is brought up, many residents protest the idea of a prison in their community.

But the governor is organizing a new task force made up of executive, legislative and judiciary members to tackle this issue.

In a letter to members, Abercrombie writes: “We sought this assistance because the number of people in our correctional facilities has increased significantly, despite average and declining crime rates in Hawaii. Furthermore, approximately one third of our inmates are housed in correctional facilities on the mainland, which comes at an enormous cost both to taxpayers and to family members of those imprisoned. We would like to end this reliance on out-of-state correctional facilities without jeopardizing public safety by finding more effective ways to supervise offenders in the community and provide them with services they need to reduce their likelihood of reoffending in the future.”

The group, called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, will hold three meetings in room 309 at the capitol: June 28, 2011, 8:30 a.m.; September 28, 2011 at 9 a.m.; and January 25, 2012 at 9 a.m.

Ex-Senators Land New Jobs in Abercrombie Administration

Two Hawaii state Senators who lost their bid for Lieutenant Governor in the 2010 Democratic primary were granted positions in the current administration of Hawaii’s new Democrat Gov. Neil Abercrombie.

Former Sen. Norman Sakamoto, D-Moanalua, started his new job on January 18, 2011. He serves as Executive Assistant to the Chairman, who oversees the day-to-day operations of the Office of the Chairman.

“With his background as a civil engineer and building contractor and his experience in government, Norman provides valuable assistance, guidance and insight to the Chairman for special projects including the department’s goal of developing new homesteading options to address the wait list,” said Crystal Kua, spokesperson for the department.

His salary is $88,484 a year.

Former State Senator Gary Hooser, D-Kauai, also landed a new position in this administration as the Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control. Hooser, who also gained approval by the state Senate, started with the Department of Health on February 7, 2011.  His monthly salary is $7,083.00, according to Rita Hoopii-Hall, Human Resources Officer for the DOH. That is $84,996 a year.

Gary Gill with the DOH said the agency is administratively attached to the DOH but independent and reports to the Governor.

“The authority of OEQC is embodied in HRS 341 and 343.  In brief, the OEQC director has broad oversight and advises the Governor on any matter relating to the Environment.  In specific, the office administers the Environmental Impact Statement process including reviewing and providing public notice to EAs and EISes and staffing the Environmental Council which adopts EIS rules and issues exemption lists. Sen. Hooser and I are working closely together on environmental concerns in Hawaii,” Gill said.

Both will also see their retirement increase since retirement is based on top three years of salary from the state and that is better the $49,000 lawmakers earn in office.

Two lawmakers fined by Campaign Spending Commission

Two Hawaii lawmakers were fined by the state Campaign Spending Commission this week.

State Rep. Karen Awana, D-West Oahu, must pay $1,900 for five counts related to failing to file or filing campaign spending reports late.

In addition, the Commission fined Rep. Mele Carroll, D-Lanai, Molokai, $2,600 for missing six campaign spending reporting deadlines.

Lawmakers cannot use campaign funds to pay the fines.

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