Group files suit over Kulani study
By TOM CALLIS
Tribune-Herald staff writer
Ohana Ho‘opakele, a group seeking to promote rehabilitation programs based on Hawaiian cultural practices, is challenging the state’s environmental assessment for the re-opening of the Kulani Correctional Facility.
In a lawsuit filed Friday in Hilo Circuit Court, the group says that the state failed to consider the site as a pu‘uhonua, or wellness center, which it asserts is a violation of Act 117.
The act, signed in June 2012, directs the state Department of Public Safety, in coordination with Ohana Ho‘opakele, to prepare a plan for a pu‘uhonua on state land. It refers to Kulani as an ideal location because of its existing infrastructure and because the area is a place of “deep spirituality for the Hawaiian people.”
The state issued a finding of no significant impact in the EA, completed in July.
Without addressing Kulani as a location for a culturally-based rehabilitation center, the group believes the report is inadequate.
That exclusion “continues and exacerbates the harms to Native Hawaiians as described in the report of the Hawaii Advisory Committee to the United States Commission on Civil Rights,” the lawsuit says.
The group is seeking temporary and permanent injunctive relief.
DPS, which oversees the state’s prisons, didn’t immediately return a request for comment.
In July, DPS Director Ted Sakai said Hawaiian cultural programs will be incorporated at Kulani.
In reference to a pu‘uhonua, which the group says on its website involves individual healing and the “traditional ho‘opono‘pono process of making right,” he said then that his department will work with community groups to establish one outside of the facility.
The state plans to reopen Kulani in July 2014.
The minimal security prison was closed in 2009 to help balance the state budget.
Re-opening the prison will help Hawaii reduce the number of prisoners sent to mainland correctional facilities, officials have said.
Mainland prisons house about 30 percent of the state’s inmates.
Kulani will house about 200 inmates, the state estimates.
The Legislature has approved $2.4 million for 2014 for reactivation and operation costs. Another $5 million will come in 2015.
Repairs and upgrades are expected to cost about $600,000.
Kulani is located about 20 miles outside Hilo.
It needs 91 employees to operate, Sakai has said.
Ohana Ho‘opakele’s website lists 1,559 people in support of establishing pu‘uhonuas as an alternative to prisons.
Email Tom Callis at email@example.com.
Rules for posting comments
Comments posted below are from readers. In no way do they represent the view of Oahu Publishing Inc. or this newspaper. This is a public forum.
Comments may be monitored for inappropriate content but the newspaper is under no obligation to do so. Comment posters are solely responsible under the Communications Decency Act for comments posted on this Web site. Oahu Publishing Inc. is not liable for messages from third parties.
IP and email addresses of persons who post are not treated as confidential records and will be disclosed in response to valid legal process.
Do not post:
- Potentially libelous statements or damaging innuendo.
- Obscene, explicit, or racist language.
- Copyrighted materials of any sort without the express permission of the copyright holder.
- Personal attacks, insults or threats.
- The use of another person's real name to disguise your identity.
- Comments unrelated to the story.
If you believe that a commenter has not followed these guidelines, please click the FLAG icon below the comment.