HILO >> A lawsuit claims the state failed to consider the Kulani Correctional Facility as a site for a wellness center, Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Tuesday.
The group Ohana Hoopakele promotes rehabilitation programs that are based on Hawaiian cultural practices. The group is challenging the state’s finding that reopening the minimum-security prison will have no significant environmental impact.
Supporters of wellness centers say there needs to be alternative, culture-based methods to rehabilitate incarcerated Native Hawaiians.
The state plans to re-open Kulani next year. It was closed in 2009 to help balance the state budget.
The group claims not considering the site as a wellness center is a violation of Act 117. The act directs state officials to prepare a plan for a wellness center on state land and refers to Kulani, 20 miles outside of Hilo, as an ideal location because of its existing infrastructure and because the area is a place of “deep spirituality for the Hawaiian people.”
Not considering the site “continues and exacerbates the harms to Native Hawaiians as described in the report of the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights,” the lawsuit states.
Officials say reopening the prison, which will house an estimated 200 inmates, will help reduce the number of prisoners sent to mainland correctional facilities.
According to the Community Alliance on Prisons, Hawaiians represent a disproportionate majority of the state’s 6,000 inmates, a number that includes 1,800 serving their sentences on the mainland.
State Department of Public Safety Director Ted Sakai has said Hawaiian cultural programs will be incorporated at Kulani.