BY JIM DOOLEY – The other shoe dropped today in the state’s plan to bring all Mainland prison inmates back to Hawaii by 2015: construction of new prison facilities on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island to hold some 900 inmates.

The plan was outlined for state senators by Jodi Maesake-Hirata, director of the state Public Safety Department.

There are now 1,738 Hawaii felons serving time in a private Arizona prison at a cost of $63.85 per inmate per day.

When additional costs for medical treatment, travel expenses and other factors are added in, the daily per-inmate cost for out of state incarceration rises to $76.18, Maesaka-Hirata said.

By 2015, all but 750 of those inmates should be back in Hawaii after changes to the criminal justice system recommended by Gov. Neil Abercrombie’s administration are implemented, she said.

Plans now are to build new a new 400-bed facility at Puunene on Maui, a 300-bed prison on the Big Island (probably in the vicinity of the old Kulani prison camp) and 200 more bed at the Waiawa Correctional Center on Oahu, said Maesaka-Hirata.

Those 900 new prison beds would accomodate all the Mainland inmates and eliminate overcrowding in the state’s current facilities, she said.

No firm costs for the new construction were offered at the hearing.

The state is now paying more than $128 per day to hold inmates in Hawaii prisons, but Maesaka-Hirata said she believes costs may be lowered by offering more community-based programs for the returning prisoners.

High security felons will continue to be incarcerated at the Halawa Correctional Facility on Oahu.

Under what’s called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, the Abercrombie administration plans to reduce the daily prison population here through a number of changes to the criminal justice system. One is streamlining and expediting pre-trial release of “low-risk” criminal defendants. Other changes are planned for the probation and parole systems.

The changes will save the state an estimated $9.8 million in fiscal year 2013,$19.5 million in 2014 and $26.5 million 2015, said Maesake-Hirata.

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Jim Dooley joined the Hawaii Reporter staff as an investigative reporter in October 2010. Before that, he has worked as a print and television reporter in Hawaii since 1973, beginning as a wire service reporter with United Press International. He joined Honolulu Advertiser in 1974, working as general assignment and City Hall reporter until 1978. In 1978, he moved to full-time investigative reporting in for The Advertiser; he joined KITV news in 1996 as investigative reporter. Jim returned to Advertiser 2001, working as investigative reporter and court reporter until 2010. Reach him at Jim@hawaiireporter.com