OHA: Office of Hawaiian Affairs

Criminal Justice

Native Hawaiians have historically been disproportionately impacted by Hawaiʻi’s criminal justice system and OHA continues to be at the forefront, advocating for policies to reduce these harmful psychological, social, cultural, and economic impacts on paʻahao, their ʻohana, and the greater Hawaiian community.

2019 OHA Legislative Package: OHA-5, Unsecured Bail Alternative

In 2018, all of Hawai‘i’s jails (except the Women’s Community Correctional Facility) were overcrowded and operating over capacity from at least 27%, to  in more cases 50-85%.  Native Hawaiians disproportionately bear the burden of Hawai’i’s jail overcrowding issues.  Many of those awaiting trial are in jail simply because they are too poor to afford bail, and not at all related to their potential flight risk, not the nature of the crimes they are alleged to have committed.  This measure would take a proven effective practice in other jurisdictions, which has provided significant relief to jail overcrowding without compromising on defendants’ potential flight risk, by allowing all defendants who have been offered cash bail to post their bail via unsecured bond.   Judges would still retain discretion to deny bail, including money bail, to those who may present a flight risk. This measure would instead only change the way that a defendant offered money bail can fulfill their bail requirement: no cash would be needed up-front to secure pretrial release , and financial consequences would only be incurred if the defendant actually fails to appear for trial.  This proposal would supplement the recommendations of the HCR134 Pretrial Reform Task Force which seek to nearly eliminate the use of money bail for lower level offenses and to reduce the overreliance on money bail for felony offenses.  Allowing for unsecured bail bonds when money bail is offered would ensure that those who are assigned money bail can obtain pretrial release without producing a large amount of cash up front, but still be subject to financial consequences for failing to appear at trial; accordingly, this measure would provide prison overcrowding relief as well as greater fairness for poor defendants, without compromising the judicial process or public safety.

 

OHA at the Capitol

Click here to view the 2019 OHA Legislative Package

 

HCR 85 Task Force on Prison Reform

House Concurrent Resolution No. 85 (2016) established a task force representing a diverse group of policymakers and stakeholders to make recommendations to the Legislature on improving Hawaiʻi’s correctional system, including recommendations on costs, best practices, and the design of future correctional facilities.  OHA advocated to be represented among the membership of this Task Force and Board of Trustees Chair Colette Machado co-led a subcommittee on Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system.  The subcommittee was instrumental in developing the vision and guiding principles for the Task Force’s work and made several recommendations specifically targeted toward reducing the disparate impacts of the criminal justice system on Native Hawaiians, utilizing culturally-based diversionary alternatives to incarceration and reentry programming, and ensuring protections for Native Hawaiian traditional and cultural practices within prison.

Final Report of the HCR 85 Task Force on Prison Reform: Summary and Key Recommendations

Download the Summary and Key Recommendations

Download the Full Report (2018)

 

HCR 134 Task Force on Pretrial Reform

Recently, there has been a growing national movement criticizing cash bail systems that determine pretrial release based on defendants’ ability to pay and their natural consequences: jails overcrowded with people who may not be dangerous, but merely are poor.  In response to the swelling outcry from justice advocates in Hawaiʻi, and the costly and inhumane overcrowding in our own jail facilities, the Legislature established the HCR134 Task Force in 2017 and charged it to make recommendations on policy and procedural reform necessary to maximize pretrial release of those who may not be dangerous or a risk of flight, but merely cannot afford high bail amounts.  OHA participated actively in the examination of the complex pretrial process and developed several recommendations that were adopted and included in the Task Force’s final report.

Hawai'i Criminal Pretrial Reform - Recommendations of the Criminal Pretrial Task Force to the Thirtieth Legislature of the State of Hawai'i

Download the Full Report (2018)

 

The Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force

In response to the findings of OHA’s 2010 report (below), the 2011 Legislature created a Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force (Act 170) and charged its membership to make policy recommendations to reduce Native Hawaiian contact with the criminal justice system and improve conditions for Hawaiians already involved.  The Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force reported its findings and recommendations on a broad array of systemic issues in 2012.

The Native Hawaiian Task Force Report

Download the Full Report (2012)

Meeting Agendas and Minutes

Over the course of the past year, meetings were held at the OHA headquarters located in downtown Honolulu. Below are the agendas and minutes of those meetings.

Pae ʻĀina Summits

The Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force conducted a series of summits throughout the pae ‘āina. The community was asked to share their manaʻo as to why Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in Hawaiʻi’s criminal justice system, and how government officials and community members can address this serious matter.

The summits were organized like a legislative hearing and testifiers were organized into blocks of time for testimony and follow up questions from the task force. Testimony covered a number of topics including:

  • Community programs
  • Cultural practices
  • Specific legal changes
  • Personal stories
  • Taking a big picture or very focused approach to issues (for instance presenting on nation building versus programs for children)

Audio & Written Testimony

Testimony from the summits can be found through the links below. The zip files contain audio recordings, transcripts (in some cases), and written testimony files. The testimony PDFs provide a quick glance at whatʻs contained in the zip files.

Report: The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System

In 2010, OHA released the study “The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System” which highlighted that overrepresentation of Hawaiians in the criminal justice system accumulates at every stage.  This report documented the unique ways that punitive drug policies have had a far heavier impact on the Native Hawaiian community than on any other ethnic group in Hawaiÿi and made recommendations on policy and administrative reform to mitigate these impacts.

Report Cover: The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System

 

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