Hawaii AG report blasts "humonetarianism" and dependence on private prisons

This document could go a long way towards changing the Hawai’i prison system; I’m impressed that it was released by the state Attorney General. That, in turn, could have ripples elsewhere – certainly in Eloy, AZ, where Corrections Corporation of America incarcerates nearly 2000 Hawai’ians.  Eloy has real problems – as does CCA.18 Hawai’ian prisoners are suing employees at Saguaro prison there for torture, and one is suing for sexual assault (the guard who perpetrated it was actually prosecuted).  

All either Eloy or CCA seem to be concerned with is the money they can make in Arizona, of course, not reducing crime or victimization in Hawai’i or human rights abuses in their own community. If Hawai’ian legislators don’t get on the ball with sentencing and prison reform, they should be called out as either incompetent or corrupt – no one can afford for any of them to be indifferent to the prison crisis anymore.

Read the report this links to, then find your state legislators here.

Call or write to them here:

Senate Clerk’s Office

State Capitol, Room 10
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6720 phone
(808)586-6719 fax

House Clerk’s Office
State Capitol, Room 27
415 South Beretania Street
Honolulu, HI 96813
(808)586-6400 phone
(808)586-6401 fax

The key term is “evidence-based practice”. Good luck. I hope you manage to wage a successful boycott of Eloy and CCA by the time this battle is over. Israel outlawed private prisons because the profit motive is in direct opposition to human rights concerns – maybe Hawai’i will abandon them as well, for all the right reasons.

—from Hawaii.gov—

Here’s the Executive Summary:

This study examined the records of the 660 persons who were released on parole in the State of Hawaii between July 1, 2005 and June 30, 2006 (Fiscal Year 2006). It addresses two main questions: What are the demographic and criminal history profiles of parolees who have been incarcerated in Hawaii and in private prisons out of state? And, how do the recidivism rates of these two groups compare? Using records obtained from the Hawaii Paroling Authority, the Department of Public Safety, and the Department of the Attorney General, parolees were tracked for three to four years after their release from prison.

The study found that:

– 54 percent of Hawaii’s prisoners are incarcerated in private prisons on the mainland — the highest percentage among all U.S. states.

– As of the end of 2009, it cost approximately $118 per day to incarcerate an inmate in Hawaii, and at least $62 per day to incarcerate him or her in a private prison on the mainland. Note, however, that unlike the in-state per day cost, the private prison cost estimate is not all-inclusive.

– 75 percent of Fiscal Year 2006 parolees never served time in a private prison on the mainland, while 25 percent did serve time there.

– Of the one-quarter of parolees who have been imprisoned on the mainland, 70 percent served half or more of their time there.

– The average time served on the mainland was 3.5 years.

The analysis of the parolees’ demographic and criminal history profiles found that:

– Parolees averaged 56 total prior arrests and 24 convictions per parolee, including an average of 20 prior felony arrests and 8 felony convictions.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had somewhat more felony arrests and felony convictions per person than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort had been convicted of fewer property and drug crimes, and more violent and “other” offenses, than had the parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– The average maximum sentence for parolees who had been incarcerated on the mainland was longer: 10.9 years, versus 8.5 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The average time served by the mainland cohort was longer: 6.2 years, versus 3.2 years for the Hawaii cohort.

– The mainland cohort included substantially more males than did the Hawaii cohort: 20 male parolees for every female parolee in the mainland group, versus 4 male parolees for every female parolee in the Hawaii group.

– As compared to their male counterparts, female parolees in both cohorts were more likely to be property and drug crime offenders.

– There were no statistically significant differences in ethnicity between the two parole cohorts. Most notably, Native Hawaiians comprised 40 percent of each cohort.

The analysis of recidivism found that:

– Parolees in the mainland cohort received significantly lower scores on the Level of Service Inventory-Revised (LSI-R). Hence, mainlanders had fewer needs for service and a lower average risk of recidivism than did parolees in the Hawaii cohort.

– In the aggregate, the LSI-R scores predicted recidivism fairly well.

– A little more than half of parolees in both cohorts failed on parole within three years.

– The average time to recidivism in both cohorts was about 15 months.

– The recidivism rate for the mainland cohort (53 percent) was slightly lower than the recidivism rate for the Hawaii cohort (56 percent), but this difference is not statistically significant.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for parolees in the higher-risk LSI-R categories.

– There was more recidivism among the mainland cohort for violating conditions of parole.

– Nearly half of all rearrests were for violating the conditions of parole.

– In both cohorts, older people recidivated less than did younger people. Age is a powerful ally of efforts to stop criminal offending.

– There were few significant differences between the two cohorts in acts of misconduct committed while in prison.

– Parolees in the mainland cohort were more likely to violate parole conditions than were parolees in the Hawaii group.

– Furlough programs were related to significantly lower rates of recidivism among mainland parolees, but not among parolees who were imprisoned only in Hawaii.

Recommendations from this study:

– Since there is no empirical justification for the policy argument that private prisons reduce recidivism better than public prisons, the State of Hawaii should decide whether to continue, discontinue, expand, or contract its reliance on private prisons based on other criteria. While cost is one criterion, it is not the only one that is important to consider.

– It is ill-advised to rely on a framework for thinking about corrections (herein termed humonetarianism) that stresses short-term financial savings at the expense of programs aimed at improving the prospects for offenders’ rehabilitation and the satisfaction of their basic needs and rights. Long-term savings are often found in forward-thinking policies and programs.

– The State of Hawaii needs to calculate more inclusive and accurate estimates of the cost of incarceration in-state and in private prisons on the mainland.

– Much more research needs to be done in order to adequately describe the contours and consequences of Hawaii’s correctional policy. One high priority is a study that explores who gets sent to prison (and where). The present study examined only persons who were released on parole.

– The State of Hawaii should conduct more research about its correctional policies and outcomes, especially given a policy world that is increasingly evidence-based.

– The Department of Public Safety and the Hawaii Paroling Authority need an integrated records management system. At present, inmates’ records are often incomplete, scattered, and difficult to locate.

Hunger Pains: Hawaii’s prison diet – one size fits all.

Interesting article. Arizona calls our prison food a “sedentary diet” and a “heart healthy diet”, interchangeably – which is an indicator of how little programming they have for prisoners here, too. The poor nutrition is a real problem for prisoners with cancer, Hepatitis C, and other serious illnesses. Many need to supplement their diet with basic vitamins, but then they have to pay for them – even if they’re indigent and dying.


Inmates lose weight, call prison food inadequate

By Rob Perez

Honolulu Star Advertiser

POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, May 22, 2011

Jonathan Namauu and Paul Keck say they each have lost at least 40 pounds over the past year.

George Rowan told his wife he’s lost 100 pounds, nearly a third of his weight, since October.

While the three Oahu men have not been trying to lose weight, they share the same diet: prison food.

All three are inmates at Halawa Community Correctional Facility. They say the meal portions have become so meager that many inmates are suffering unwanted weight loss, in some cases shedding substantial amounts.

An increasing number of inmates and their family members in recent months have complained to outside groups about the adequacy of Hawaii prison meals.

The state Ombudsman’s Office, the Public Defender’s Office, the Community Alliance on Prisons and other organizations say they have received or are hearing about more food-related complaints than usual. The issue of unwanted weight loss — a red flag to watchdog groups — is being mentioned more frequently, according to the community alliance group and the Ombudsman’s Office.

“Even dogs and cats at the Humane Society eat better than us,” said Namauu, serving time for negligent homicide. Namauu, who is 5 feet 10 inches, said in a phone interview that his weight has dropped to 230 pounds since he was transferred to Halawa from an Arizona prison in June. Other inmates, especially those who returned from Arizona, tell similar stories, blaming inadequate, unhealthy food.


The Department of Public Safety, which runs Hawaii’s prisons, say these are typical meals served to inmates. Some prisoners, however, say they frequently get much less.

Fruit or fruit juice: 4 oz.
Scrambled eggs: 4 oz.
Rice: 8 oz.
Whole wheat bread: 2 slices, margarine
Cold cereal: 1 cup
Skim milk: half pint
Hot beverage (coffee): 8 oz.

Roast beef: 4 oz.
Brown gravy: 2 oz.
Mashed potatoes: 8 oz.
Green beans: 4 oz.
Whole wheat bread: 2 slices with margarine
Fruit: 4 oz.
Beverage (juice): 8 oz.

Grilled fish: 4 oz.
Steamed rice: 8 oz.
Cooked cabbage: 4 oz.
Whole wheat bread: 2 slices with margarine
Tartar sauce: 4 oz.
Fruit: 4 oz.
Beverage: (skim milk or juice): 8 oz.

Source: Department of Public Safety

But the Department of Public Safety, which runs Hawaii prisons and oversees the more than 4,500 inmates incarcerated here, say the prisoners are getting nutritionally balanced meals and sufficient calories.

The meals are designed to provide 2,600 to 2,900 calories daily, according to Larry Hales, acting administrator for the department’s corrections program services.

“The meals are nutritionally balanced as approved by a registered dietitian,” Hales said in written responses to the newspaper. “All statewide correctional facilities follow the same five-week standardized menu cycle.”

Attorney David Fathi, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s National Prison Project in Washington, D.C., said if prisoners are experiencing weight loss because of insufficient food “that’s a serious red flag. It’s a real danger sign.”

The ACLU successfully sued an Arizona sheriff several years ago for unconstitutional conditions at a jail there. Among the conditions cited by the court was inadequate food.

Vanessa Chong, executive director of the ACLU in Hawaii, said her office started receiving food-related weight-loss complaints this year and is looking into the situation. She encourages more inmates to contact her office.

Given the state’s failure to adopt practical, cost-effective prison policies, she said, more problems are surfacing and she wouldn’t be surprised if the food situation is yet another.

“This could be part of the ongoing cracking of the system,” Chong said.

Hales said in a phone interview that meal portions for the general prison population have not been reduced because of budget cuts.

Hales did note that Halawa recently corrected a practice in which some inmates were getting double portions when they shouldn’t have been. He also said that male and female inmates, regardless of their size, get the same portions unless a doctor orders something different for medical reasons.

If an inmate loses weight, he or she can request to see a doctor, and if the doctor orders an enhanced diet for medical reasons, the meals will be adjusted, Hales said. But the department has few cases of medical diets for increased food, he said.

If an overweight inmate claims weight loss and is seen by a doctor, the inmate will not be placed on a medical diet to increase weight, he added.

Hawaii inmates’ dislike of prison food is nothing new. Groups such as Kat Brady’s Community Alliance on Prisons have heard such grumblings for years.

What’s different this time, though, is the repeated complaints from family members who visit their loved ones and reported being shocked to see how much weight the inmates have lost, according to Brady, coordinator for the alliance.

“When families started calling me and saying, ‘Oh, my God, it looks like they’ve been in Auschwitz,’ that tells me something is wrong,” said Brady, referring to one of the concentration camps operated by the Nazis in World War II.

Criminal defense attorney Earle Partington, who represents inmate Paul Kleck, likewise said he was stunned when he recently visited his client at Halawa for the first time in about a year.

“His face was so gaunt, he’s lost so much weight, it’s incredible,” Partington said.

Keck, 63, who is 6 feet tall, told the Star-Advertiser he weighs 205 pounds, down from about 250 a year ago.

“Everybody has lost weight,” said Keck, who is serving time for sexual assault.

Social worker Gemmi Rowan said her 6-foot, 5-inch husband, George, has lost so much weight since returning from Arizona in late October that flaps of skin hang from his torso. He now weighs about 220 pounds.

“He looks terrible to me,” Rowan said, adding that her husband was able to maintain his weight in Arizona.

When Rowan’s daughter spent more than two months this year at Oahu Community Correctional Facility, she also lost weight, shedding about 20 pounds, Rowan said. Her 5-foot, 6-inch daughter weighed 110 when released.

“She looked like a twig,” Rowan said.

Asked why organizations are receiving more food-related complaints, Hales wrote, “The complaints coming from the outside could be due to the public learning of the current economic situation that the state is facing and hearing from inmates who feel they are not fed adequate, nutritious meals.”

But Hales said DPS consistently has spent more than $10 million annually over the past four years to feed Hawaii’s inmate population.

Given conflicting information provided by prisoners and the department, it’s tough for an outsider to get an accurate gauge of what’s happening on the inside. The two sides don’t seem to agree on anything.

Prisoners, for instance, say they’ve complained to prison staff about the meal situation. DPS says no food service unit at any facility statewide has received complaints.

Prisoners say they sometimes get only a slice of cake or a biscuit for breakfast and they hadn’t had fresh fruit in months — until the Star-Advertiser started making inquiries. DPS says that isn’t accurate.

Most of the inmates and family members who spoke to the Star-Advertiser on the record did so reluctantly because they feared retaliation. But they said the situation has become so intolerable that they decided to speak out anyway, hoping the exposure will lead to changes.

Most of the complaints reported to the Star-Advertiser involved Halawa, but a few mentioned Oahu Community Correctional Center, the women’s prison in Kailua and the Maui prison.

“It’s definitely something more recent,” Public Defender Jack Tonaki said of the rise in complaints his office has heard from prisoners.

State Ombudsman Robin Matsunaga estimated that his office has received fewer than 50 food-related complaints from prisoners in recent months. After following up with DPS, Matsunaga’s office did not find an indication of a problem. But he acknowledged that his office has neither the expertise nor the resources to conduct a food audit to independently verify such information as calorie or nutrition levels.

The ACLU’s Fathi said courts have ruled that inmates are entitled to meals that are nutritionally balanced and adequate to sustain health, and instances of significant unwanted weight loss raise questions on whether that standard is being met.

“People should not be losing 40 or 100 pounds because they’re not being fed enough,” he said.

Fathi said he is seeing more cases of states and counties across the country paring prison diets in a short-sighted attempt to cut costs. Those efforts, he said, will lead to greater costs in the long run.

“Hungry prisoners are unhappy prisoners,” Fathi said. “And unhappy prisoners are harder to manage.”

Delay on Mainland Prison-building

All the more reason to develop prison alternatives, folks…by all means, though, get them out of Arizona. We’re just killing them here...


New Prison Contract Overdue
Hawaii Reporter
Friday, May 27th, 2011
Posted by Jim Dooley

BY JIM DOOLEY – Although Gov. Neil Abercrombie has said repeatedly he wants to halt out-of-state incarceration of Hawaii prison inmates, the state is finalizing the award of a new, three-year contract for Mainland imprisonment of up to 2,000 convicts.

The contractor selection was supposed to be made at the beginning of this week, but a public safety official said the issue was still being finalized.

A spokesman for Corrections Corporation of America (CCA), the company that owns a private Arizona prison where some 1,900 Hawaii medium security inmates have been held, said he could not comment because contractor selection is still underway.

Abercrombie and other officials say new prison space, owned by the state or a private partner, needs to be developed here.

The new Mainland prison contract award is s being made against the backdrop of recent studies by the Hawaii Auditor and the Arizona Department of Corrections which question the true costs to taxpayers of privately-operated prisons.

CCA’s current agreement to house Hawaii inmates at Saguaro Correctional Center expires June 30.

The new contract is to take effect July 1 and last three years, with two possible annual extensions beyond that, according to the bid request published by the state earlier this year.

The state can cancel the contract with three months’ notice.

At present, the state is paying CCA $63.22 per day for each of the 1,900 or so inmates held at Saguaro, which is located in Eloy, Arizona, about halfway between Phoenix and Tucson.

Saguaro Correctional Facility (Hawaii Auditor Photo)

The present contract has an automatic escalator clause in the per diem rate and the charge has risen between two and three per cent annually since 2007, when it was set at $57, according to a December 2010 report Prison Audit from the office of Hawaii Auditor Marion Higa.

Costs to Hawaii for Mainland incarcerations have more than tripled since 2001, rising from just under $20 million annually to more than $60 million, according to Higa’s audit.

In-state prison expenses were more than $167 million last year.

Higa’s study was harshly critical of the state Public Safety Department’s reports to the Legislature on prison costs, saying the department used different methods to calculate in-state and out-of-state expenses.

“Management chooses to report artificial cost figures derived from a calculation based on a flawed methodology, designed entirely on what is easiest for the department to report,” Higa said.

“Because funding is virtually guaranteed, management is indifferent to the needs of policymakers and the public for accurate and reliable cost information. As a result, true costs are unknown,” said the audit, which was prepared before the Abercrombie administration took office.

One of the audit’s complaints was that didn’t use exact inmate counts for its in-state expense numbers, instead basing its reporting on the total number of prisoners that could be held in state-owned prisons.

And some overhead and administrative costs assigned to in-state operations should have been counted as out-of-state costs, Higa found.

Each bookkeeping method increased the costs of in-state incarcerations and decreased out-of-state costs, Higa said.

A recently-released study by the Arizona Department of Corrections of that state’s contracts with private prisons reached some of the same conclusions.

The study did not include the Saguaro facility. No Arizona prisoners are held there.

Like Higa’s study, the Arizona the report found that per diem rates charged by private prisons did not include “inmate management” expenses which the state also had to pay for privately-incarcerated inmates.

“As a result, the ‘real’ costs for private contract beds are understated in comparison to the reported costs for state beds,” the report said.

And the report pointed out that private prisons are selective about the types of inmates they accept.

Prisoners with severe physical or mental health problems are either not accepted by the private contractors or their treatment expenses are billed separately to the state, the report said.

That’s the situation with Hawaii’s CCA contract, according to Higa’s report and language in the new contract bid.

One factor in deciding whether to ship a Hawaii prisoner to Arizona is that there are “no medical or

Halawa Correctional Facility (Hawaii Auditor Photo)

mental health conditions that may affect an inmate’s ability to function within a normal range,” Higa reported.

The pending contract requires the vendor to pay the costs of routine “medical, mental health, and dental service.”

But some expenses must be paid by the state, including hospital physician reimbursements, surgeries and other “invasive procedures” and procedures involving anesthesiology, the contract language stipulates.

In those cases, the contractor must pay the first $2,000, but the state is responsible for the balance, according to the contract.

In a response to Higa’s audit, newly-appointed Public Safety Department director Jodie Maesaka-Hirata made it clear that no matter how the numbers are sliced and diced, private prisons are cheaper than Hawaii lock-ups.

Maesaka-Hirata is a leading advocate for bringing Hawaii inmates home to local prisons or to expanded community release programs.

She told Higa the price for 1,000 or so inmates now imprisoned at the Halawa Correctional Facility is double what it would be if they were held in Arizona (assuming the private prison would accept them).

Prisoners Post: to the CEO of CCA, Damon Hininger.

Hope some of Hawai’is legislators are paying attention to this – look at what you really get for your dollar in Arizona.

This is a courageous, frank letter from a prisoner of the Corrections Corporation of America and the City of Eloy out at the Saguaro Correctional Facility (where 18 prisoners are suing for torture, and one is suing a guard for sexual assault).

I sure hope Thad was right when he guessed that the CEO may actually answer his letter, though, if he’s right about all this, then they’ll be sure to send someone to his cell to harass and write him up, at the very least.

Keep us posted on how you’re faring in there, Thad. We still want to see you make it out of there soon. He makes a hell of a lot of money off of prisoners like you behaving yourselves, so I’d think he’ could afford the grace to listen...

– Peg

“Prisoners Have Families, Too”.
Maricopa County Jail: Tent City.

Phoenix, AZ. (April 6, 2011)

PS: Here’s the follow-up post to this letter. Thad got harassed alright – he was hit for another year by the parole board after they had already given him an out date, thanks to a personal call from the good warden at Saguaro after this post went up. As far as I’m concerned, they’re corrupt through and through in Eloy, Arizona: the City of God.


To The CEO of CCA:
Damon Hininger

Corrections Corporation of America

10 Burton Hills Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37215

Phone: (615) 263-3000; (800) 624-2931
Fax: (615) 263-3140