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Hawaii lawmakers poised to approve proposal to reform state’s criminal justice system

  • SOPHIE COCKE

    State Sen. Clarence Nishihara, Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald and state Rep. Gregg Takayama.

  • CRAIG T. KOJIMA / JAN. 24

    Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald delivers a speech to the Hawaii State Legislature.

The state House and Senate gave preliminary approval today to a bill aimed at ushering in reforms to the criminal justice system, including creating a commission that would oversee the state’s correctional system.

The Hawaii Correctional Oversight Commission would be tasked with overseeing the state’s Department of Public Safety and transitioning the state’s jails and prisons away from a punitive model to one focused more on rehabilitation.

The commission would include five members appointed by the governor, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice of the Hawaii Supreme Court and chair of the Office of Hawaiian Affairs. The commission would be overseen by a full-time, paid oversight coordinator selected by the governor from a list of three nominees submitted by the commission.

“One of our goals for the oversight commission is to create a correctional system that is safer, smarter and more transparent than the one that we have now,” said state Rep. Gregg Takayama, chair of the House Public Safety, Veterans, & Military Affairs Committee.

House Bill 1552 would also expedite bail hearings, ensure that bail can be posted seven days a week and require correctional facilities to continually review pretrial detainees to see if they should be eligible for pretrial release.

The bill would also establish a criminal justice institute within the office of the Chief Justice to conduct research on national best practices when it comes to criminal justice policy.

The bill, as well as Senate Bill 192 which advanced yesterday, implements a number of the recommendations of two task forces created by the state Legislature to improve the criminal justice system.

“I think there are some very significant reforms and innovations adopted today in this bill and the other bill that passed that I think are in line with what the task force asked for and will really move us ahead to come up with a system that achieves the objectives of keeping the public safe, while ensuring that folks who are entitled to be released pretrial would be able to do so, not simply be held because they can’t afford to post bail,” said Hawaii Supreme Court Chief Justice Mark E. Recktenwald.

The bills still need final votes in the state House and Senate before they can be sent to the governor for final decision making.

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