House Finance Committee Seeks Information on Inmates Released from Prison due to COVID-19 Concerns
Updated: May 19
Honolulu, Hawaiʻi – The House Finance Committee today amended SB3080 SD3 HD 1 to include a proviso requiring detailed information on inmates who are being released from Hawaiʻi's correctional centers to reduce crowding and limit inmates' exposure to COVID-19.
The proviso calls for the Judiciary to submit a weekly report to the legislature with the following information for all inmates released pursuant to the Hawai‘i Supreme Court in SCPW-20-0000200 and SCPW-20-0000213:
(1) The inmate's name;
(2) The inmate's release date;
(3) The correctional center or facility where the inmate was released from;
(4) The inmate's criminal status before release, for example felony probationer, misdemeanant, or petty misdemeanant;
(5) Any objections made to the inmate's release;
(6) The inmate's verified residence address at the time of release;
(7) The inmate's current verified residence address or homeless status;
(8) The conditions of supervised release;
(9) The name of the person or agency that is responsible for supervising the inmate upon release; and
(10) If a released inmate is subsequently arrested, the inmate's arrest record following release.
House Speaker Scott K. Saiki said there is growing concern that the Judiciary has now moved from releasing nonviolent offenders to releasing violent offenders.
"The public expects that the Judiciary will make certain that those released do not become susceptible to criminal activity and homelessness," said Speaker Saiki. "Unfortunately, that's not occurred in every case. As a result, the Legislature is asking the Judiciary to provide reports on the inmates that they are releasing in the interest of public health and safety."
On April 8, House Speaker Scott K. Saiki and 33 other Representatives sent a letter to Judge Daniel R. Foley expressing strong opposition to the release of inmates. The letter says that in addition to public safety concerns, some released inmates have nowhere to go and became homeless. This places a burden on homeless services providers and forces out the current vulnerable residents of those facilities.
"The Judiciary, like the Legislature, has a prevailing duty to protect the health and safety of all Hawaiʻi residents. This mistimed release of inmates will violate this duty," according to the letter.
The Hawaiʻi Supreme Court subsequently ordered all jails and prisons within the state to reduce inmate populations to the facilities’ design capacity.
More than 830 inmates have been released early after expedited court reviews of motions filed by the Office of the Public Defender or other attorneys. There have been no positive COVID-19 cases in any of the state's correctional facilities.
See a Hawaiʻi News Now report on early release inmates being re-arrested here.