Unsafe Conditions Prompt State to Reform Juvenile Detention Home

Nanea Kalani/Civil Beat

Grave deficiencies in the protection of the youth in its care.

Training of staff is gravely inadequate.

Physical environment is extremely inadequate, in gross disrepair.

These were among the shortcomings identified by an independent investigative committee evaluating conditions at Hawaii's juvenile detention home.

From excessive use of isolation to discipline youth to woefully inadequate supervision of staff, the report paints a disturbing picture.

Authored in 2009, the report focuses on one facility — Hale Hoomalu on Alder Street in Honolulu, which was closed last year.

The detention home — the only secure juvenile detention facility that served youth statewide — has since been relocated to the new Kapolei judiciary complex. The report, whose findings have not been reported until now, was produced by an investigative committee that included public defenders, law enforcement, academics, detention home staff and others.

Civil Beat obtained a copy marked "DO NOT DISTRIBUTE" from the judiciary, along with an 11-page response detailing some of the steps that have been taken to address the report's findings.

Hawaii's senior family court judge told Civil Beat that the facility wasn't safe or therapeutic for kids.

Judge R. Mark Browning said he welcomed the report's criticism.

"We gave them access to as much as we could," he said. "We told them to tell us the good, bad and the ugly."

"Certainly given the facility that existed at the time — the one at Alder Street, the old detention home — I think it's absolutely clear to anybody that that's absolutely unacceptable," he said. "We did not believe the environment at Alder Street was such that it was safe for kids or that it was therapeutic."

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