About $1.3 Million Coming for Alternatives to Lockup in Hawaii

Expect a small allotment of funds to come online in the near future in the Aloha State. An act signed into law by Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii) last month pushed policy reforms aimed at reducing the amount of juveniles sent to the state’s Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF).

The federal Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention is in on the project, funding a technical assistance team over the next year to provide training, planning, and assessment assistance.

The law carves out funding for at least one year – fiscal 2014-2015 – to help develop the state’s capacity to deal with offenders outside of HYCF:

There is appropriated out of the general revenues of the State of Hawaii the sum of $1,260,500 or so much thereof as may be necessary for fiscal year 2014-2015 for the necessary costs and expenses incurred in carrying out the purposes of this Act.

This is not the first time Hawaii has tried to take on over-use in a facility with a bad record on two critical points: conditions inside, and the number of juveniles who return to HYCF again.

Youth Services Insider asked Dan Macallair, who helped go after HYCF back in the late 1980s, what needs to change to make reform permanent in Hawaii. The answer: reform has to include the local judges.

“The state gave us parole power to move kids out of the HYCF whenever we wanted, but did not require the local judges to do anything differently,” said Macallair, executive director of the Center for Juvenile and Criminal Justice. “When we started releasing kids for inappropriate commitments, there was an immediate backlash.”

That backlash erased the entire effort, Macallair said. “We reduced the population from 89 to 36, only to shoot back up within six months of our departure. I hope they don’t repeat the mistakes of the past.”

Youth Services Insider is mostly written by Chronicle Editor-in-Chief John Kelly.

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John Kelly is editor-in-chief of The Chronicle of Social Change.