Critical Audit Could Spur Hawaii Prison Reform

Hawaii State Auditor

A 77-page audit released Tuesday by State Auditor Marion Higa only confirms what some have long suspected: Hawaii cannot make real progress on solving prison overcrowding until it fully understands how much it costs to incarcerate inmates.

As well, there are serious management and procurement problems with the state's contract to hold some 2,000 inmates at Corrections Corporation of America facilities in Arizona.

The audit, titled "Management Audit of the Department of Public Safety’s Contracting for Prison Beds and Services," comes just two weeks after Gov. Neil Abercrombie said he wants to bring all the prisoners back to the islands. The governor wants new facilities here and also wants more focus on rehabilitation programs.

And, the audit comes just weeks before the 2011 Legislature opens for business.

While the contract with Corrections Corporation of America, which expires June 30, will likely be amended and renewed at least on a short-term basis — there's no place to put the mainland inmates in Hawaii — a key state senator says the audit may expedite efforts to pay for a new prison facility on Maui and to release hundreds of non-violent offenders into community programs.

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