HILO, Hawaii — Hawaii state officials have recently stated that the Kulani Correctional Facility, located on the slopes of Mauna Kea, will be reopened in 2014. Former Gov. Linda Lingle closed the minimum-security prison in 2009 because of operating costs. Financial issues the prison faced included budgeting for inmates returning from the mainland, job creation or staff reinstatement and the continued use of a fully functional facility owned by the state.
Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Toni Schwartz stated that the funding plan for Kulani includes $2.4 million for the 2013-14 fiscal year and $5 for 2014-15. The state will also fund 90 to 95 positions at the facility.
Kulani Correctional Facility accommodates approximately 200 low-risk inmates. Once the prison is re-opened, inmates from within the state of Hawaii will be transferred to the Kulani site. This will allow the 30 percent of Hawaii inmates serving their sentences in facilities on the mainland to return to the island to finish their sentences. Inmates from Hawaii are currently housed in two facilities in Arizona: Saguaro Correctional Center and Red Rock Correctional Center. The new inmates housed at Kulani will be those within two to four years of their scheduled release dates.
A study in 2012 analyzed the architectural, engineering and environmental aspects of the Kulani facility, which demonstrated that the facility will need only minimal repairs in order to prepare it for the 200 new inmates. The estimated cost of reopening the facility is about $600,000, according to Schwartz. The facility will need kitchen and electrical service upgrades that will require licensed technicians. Inmates will complete the rest of the remaining work.
R.M. Towell Corp’s 200-page assessment states that there will be no long-term negative environmental or cultural impacts coinciding with the reopening of the facility. When the prison was closed in 2009 and given to the state Department of Defense, it was converted to a program campus for at-risk youth. The Youth Challenge Academy will move to a new facility by June 2014.
One major aspect of the prison’s reopening will be the inclusion of a wellness program incorporating traditional Hawaiian healing practices, known as pu’uhonua.
House Bill 2848, which called for the inclusion of this ancient cultural practice, passed the state legislature in 2012. This bill will require the Department of Public Safety to design a model wellness center for the pu’uhonua. The bill also calls for a work release program on the Big Island, possibly at Kulani, which allows certain inmates to work on projects to benefit the community and the state.
The prison is scheduled to open in July 2014.