(BIVN) – As concerns grow from those who are for and those who are against the release of inmates in the time of the coronavirus pandemic, one Hawaiʻi County Councilmember is speaking out.
In a media release issued on Monday, Puna councilmember Matthew Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder said he is opposed to the release of inmates back into the community as a mitigation to the potential spread of COVID-19 in jails and prisons.
According to the most recent report from the state, there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 in the Hawaiʻi prison system. The Department of Public Safety also reported there has already been a substantial decrease in the jail population.
The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court has appointed retired Intermediate Court of Appeals Judge Daniel R. Foley as Special Master to work with the State of Hawaii Public Defender’s office and the Department of Public Safety “in a collaborative and expeditious manner” to address the issue, and to recommend a resolution while protecting public health and safety.
Councilman Kanealiʻi-Kleinfelder stated:
I have received a high volume of calls within the past 24 hours regarding the proposed release of convicted criminals who are housed at Hawaii Community Correction Center (HCCC) in Hilo. The decision to release any inmates is in the purview of the Hawaii State Supreme Court based on a petition filed by State of Hawaii Public Defender’s office.
I spoke to Hawaii County Prosecutor Mitch Roth about the pending release of HCCC prisoners due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Mr. Roth advised me that no domestic violence, sex assault, burglary or robbery offenders will be released. The discussion on who should be the released is continuing and cases are being processed individually.
I oppose any release of inmates from HCCC. Placing close to 100 inmates into our community is outright dangerous. Our police force is taxed and people are scared; this move just adds fuel to the fire, especially in Puna.
There are existing State Facilities like Kulani Honor Camp and Hale Nani where these alleged “safe inmates” can continue to be supervised. There are options to an outright release into the general population of East Hawaii. Also note that none of the released inmates will be able to leave the island until that “essential” travel ban is lifted.
The Department of Public Safety has stated that currently there are no confirmed cases of COVID-19 at HCCC or any other State Facility. I will continue to monitor the situation and keep our community updated. If you have any questions or concerns, please call our office at (808) 961-8263 or text me directly at (808) 430-7990.
Please continue to stay at home if possible, wash your hands a, wear a face mask and practice social distancing if you must go out in public. Together we will prevail over the COVID-19 pandemic.