GOVERNOR SIGNS BILL TO IMPROVE HAWAII’S JUVENILE JUSTICE SYSTEM
U.S. Department of Justice Commits Resources to Support Implementation
News release from Office of the Governor July 2, 2014
HONOLULU – Highlighting collaboration between the executive, legislative and judicial branches of state government, Gov. Neil Abercrombie today signed House Bill 2490 (Act 201) into law. This measure aims to reduce Hawaii’s secure juvenile facility population by half over the next five years and directs investment in community supervision and treatment programs that will be more effective at steering troubled youth toward productive, law-abiding lives.
“This legislation is the result of extensive research, collaboration and consensus by stakeholders and policymakers across Hawaii,” Gov. Abercrombie said. “By using our resources more effectively, we will be able to reduce juvenile crime and achieve better outcomes for youth, families and communities across our islands.”
In 2013, the state spent $199,000 a year for each bed at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF), yet 75 percent of youth released from HYCF were re-adjudicated or convicted as an adult within three years. To improve those results, Gov. Abercrombie, Senate President Donna Mercado Kim, House Speaker Joseph Souki and Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald last year launched a bipartisan, inter-branch working group that analyzed the Hawaii’s juvenile justice system and recommended the policy reforms contained in this legislation.
“The working group studied Hawaii’s data and research on proven practices,” said Rep. Mele Carroll, who served as co-chair of the working group. “With this information in hand, we designed policies that will transform our juvenile justice system. This law equips our state to protect public safety and effectively rehabilitate youth – part of a solution that our families and communities have long been seeking.”
The new law focuses HYCF beds on serious juvenile offenders – a practice shown to produce the best public safety returns and reductions in recidivism. By diverting the placement of youth with lower-level offenses from HYCF, the policies are projected to cut the facility’s population by 60 percent over the next five years, saving an estimated $11 million in the facility’s budget. Through this measure, the state also invested $1.26 million of the anticipated savings this year to expand proven programs, including mental health and substance abuse treatment, in Hawaii’s communities.
Just prior to Gov. Abercrombie signing this new law, the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) announced a partnership with Hawaii to support the implementation of the new policies. OJJDP will fund a technical assistance team over the next year to provide wide-ranging training, planning activities, education, assessment assistance and other tools for the state in recognition of Hawaii’s forward-thinking adoption of this new law. The partnership is expected to commence in the fall of this year.
“This partnership will ensure smooth implementation of these new policies in Hawaii and maximize positive outcomes for the state,” said Gov. Abercrombie.
“As a family court judge, I see youth in critical need of these treatments far too often,” said working group co-chair and First Circuit Senior Family Court Judge R. Mark Browning. “HB2490 will allow us to address these needs and keep young people from slipping through the cracks.”
“A young person in the juvenile justice system almost without fail is involved with other state services,” said Department of Human Services (DHS) Deputy Director Barbara Yamashita, who also served as a co-chair of the working group. “This new law empowers state agencies to work together to best help Hawaii’s youth succeed.”
“Through this package of policies, we can focus HYCF primarily on public safety issues, while expanding treatment and rehabilitation in our communities so that more youth can have a better shot at getting their lives on track,” said David Hipp, executive director of the DHS Office of Youth Services.
The working group and the state received technical assistance from The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Public Safety Performance Project and its local partners.
At the same ceremony, the governor also enacted House Bill 2116 (Act 202), a measure that eliminates sentences of life imprisonment without the possibility of parole for juvenile offenders.
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