A Plan to Return Hawaii's Mainland Inmates

Hawaii Department of Public Safety

If all goes as planned, officials from the Hawaii Department of Public Safety predict that 1,000 local prisoners incarcerated in two Arizona prisons could be home by 2015.

About 750 would remain, but Public Safety says the addition of bed space at facilities on Oahu, Maui and the Big Island — beginning as early as 2016 — could house the Hawaii prisoners and relieve overcrowding at other island prisons.

A lot of stars have to align for that to happen, starting with the passage of Justice Reinvestment bills at the Hawaii Legislature — the aim of "JRI" is to reduce the prison population and save money — as well as the approval of $49 million in capital improvement projects to fix up prisons across the state.

There are a lot of hurdles down the road, too, including having a healthy economy that allows for more CIP spending to build new prisons or rehabilitate old ones. Local residents will also have to become comfortable with prisons near their backyards.

But members of Senate Public Safety, Government Operations and Military Affairs expressed cautious optimism that an end may be in sight to a vexing problem — how to return Hawaii offenders to their home.

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