As long as large numbers of Hawaiian inmates continue to reside in mainland private prisons, they often must focus their energy on surviving their prison sentences rather than on rehabilitation. However, the expected reopening of the Kulani Correctional Facility may help meet the governor's goal of moving inmates back to the mainland and establishing a restorative justice program that can help provide the skills prisoners need to succeed within the community while on parole or upon release.
Inmates who lose work skills in prison experience problems finding employment after release, particularly if no prison programs are available to help them sharpen their skills. Many types of work experiences can contribute to successful re-integration into society. This basic concept was illustrated in a recent study of prisoners in three states conducted by the Urban Institute Justice Policy Center. Overall, the study indicated that the following factors most directly contributed to reduced reincarceration within the first year after prison release:
- Working prior to prison
- Earning reasonable wages within two months after release
- Participation in job training classes while in prison
- Holding a job while in prison
The proposed Kulani pilot program would incorporate inmates assessed as low escape risks who are nearing their parole or release dates. During their time in the program, the inmates would all participate in educational programs while also being introduced back into the community through work programs. A successful program would be the first step in introducing similar programs on all of the Hawaiian Islands.
The Kulani program offers real hope for prisoners who now reside in private mainland facilities. However, for now, inmates continue to deal with often-unsatisfactory medical treatment, not to mention violent living conditions. Until such time as they can move back to an Island correctional facility and begin a program that can help them move toward successful futures, they need to recognize the importance of a civil rights attorney who is dedicated to helping protect their rights - and their safety.