'Justice Reinvestment' Plan An Easy First Phase

Hawaii State Auditor

It could have been a huge embarrassment.

Just 48 hours before Gov. Neil Abercrombie was set to unveil a major initiative to overhaul Hawaii's criminal justice system, four inmates escaped from the minimum-security Waiawa Correctional Facility on Oahu.

Fortunately for the administration, the four inmates were quickly recaptured, including two in the early hours of June 28 — the very day the governor introduced his "Justice Reinvestment" plan.

As the state embarks over the next six months on Justice Reinvestment — a data-driven approach to reducing corrections spending and decreasing crime successfully used in more than 10 states — it is not only a first step but relatively inexpensive and easy step toward criminal justice reform.

The hard part, however, will come when the administration takes its recommendations before lawmakers next session. The recommendations will likely include establishing treatment and training centers in residential neighborhoods to help prisoners re-enter society, something that could be of concern to constituents.

As the Waiawa escape underscores, as well as an attempted escape from Oahu Community Correctional Center just this week, residents may cast a skeptical eye on fixing a long-troubled system when it involves their own back yard.

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