HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

H.C.R. NO.

171

THIRTY-FIRST LEGISLATURE, 2021

H.D. 1

STATE OF HAWAII

 

 

 

 

 

HOUSE CONCURRENT

RESOLUTION

 

 

URGING THE DEPARTMENT OF PUBLIC SAFETY TO RECOGNIZE THE VALUE OF CULTURE-BASED REHABILITATION ACTIVITIES IN THE STATE'S CORRECTIONAL SYSTEM.

 

 

 


WHEREAS, one finding from the 2012 report of the Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force was that "Native Hawaiians have suffered from severe intergenerational, historical, and political trauma from the loss of land, language, and culture. This collective trauma has negative economic, health, cultural, and educational impacts on individuals, and often manifests itself in criminal activity. Any effort to reduce the number of Native Hawaiians who come in contact with the criminal justice system must include a multi-pronged approach to addressing this trauma"; and

 

WHEREAS, studies have shown that the criminal justice system disproportionately impacts Native Hawaiians, that this disproportionate impact accumulates at each stage of the system, and that Native Hawaiians are more likely to receive a prison sentence than any other ethnic group; and

 

WHEREAS, another finding from the Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force report was that "[w]ithout proactive policy and oversight, there is no indication that the disproportionate representation of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system will abate"; and

 

WHEREAS, in Davis v. Abercrombie, Civil No. 11-00144 LEK‑BMK, the Native Hawaiian Legal Corporation sought to establish the rights of Hawaii's paahao, or prisoners, to engage in traditional and customary practices while serving their sentences in Arizona, having seen first-hand the positive impacts of culture-based rehabilitation in its representation of the paahao; and

WHEREAS, since 1977, the number of people incarcerated in the State has increased more than nine hundred percent, creating an unprecedented level of overcrowding at the State's jails and prisons; and

 

WHEREAS, to address this overcrowding, Hawaii has relied on contracted private, for-profit prisons to house a significant portion of the State's inmate population for more than two decades; and

 

WHEREAS, inmates who serve their sentences in these out-of-state facilities are effectively exiled thousands of miles away from their families, friends, and crucial support networks, and experience negative impacts associated with dislocation from home, culture, and post-prison job prospects; and

 

WHEREAS, Native Hawaiians, who are more likely to be transferred to out-of-state prisons than inmates of other ethnicities, feel these impacts disproportionately in part because they are forced to serve their sentences thousands of miles away from their ancestral homelands; and

 

WHEREAS, despite this physical isolation from their home, a number of distinguished and respected Native Hawaiian cultural practitioners have dedicated time and energy to travel to correctional facilities, both on the mainland United States and within Hawaii, to teach inmates traditional native practices such as hula and oli, the Hawaiian language, and Hawaiian religious ceremonies; and

 

WHEREAS, the revered kumu who take on this important task do so at no cost to the State, including those who perform this valuable service at private prisons in Arizona, three thousand miles away from Hawaii; and

 

WHEREAS, the inmates who have participated in these programs have found it to be a valuable and transformative experience, including many participants who had not previously been in touch with their cultural roots and were truly connecting with their culture for the first time; and

WHEREAS, the opportunity to participate in these programs helps inmates to reclaim their dignity, acquire a connection to their culture, attain a strong sense of identity, gain mental strength, and rehabilitate, both as they serve their sentences and when they return home to reenter society and reconnect with families and others whom the inmates had been separated from during their sentences; and

 

WHEREAS, as inmates invest the time to learn their culture, some have become so proficient in the practices that they became kumu themselves, sharing their knowledge with other prisoners and becoming leaders within their communities; and

 

WHEREAS, the impact that these programs have on inmates was highlighted in Ciara Lacy's documentary "Out of State," which illustrated how the use of culture-based rehabilitation activities impacted Hawaii-born inmates serving sentences in an Arizona prison during their stay in the prison and after they returned to Hawaii; and

 

WHEREAS, "Out of State" has been shown at more than thirty festivals around the world, from the Hawaii International Film Festival in Hawaii to the Cayman International Film Festival in the Cayman Islands to Berlinale in Berlin, Germany; and

 

WHEREAS, at these screenings, "Out of State" received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics and audiences and won a number of awards, including Best Feature Film and Audience Choice Award Best Feature Film at the Hawaii International Film Festival, and Best Feature Film at the Made in Hawaii Film Festival; and

 

WHEREAS, the Native Hawaiian Justice Task Force, recognizing that culture-based programs are effective and should be expanded upon, recommended in its report that "[t]he State should recognize and support community and grassroots efforts that promote indigenous cultural practice models demonstrated to be successful in Hawaii or elsewhere"; and

 

WHEREAS, the success of culture-based rehabilitation activities shows that these programs may be helpful in other contexts, including as a means to end the school-to-prison pipeline, which also disproportionately impacts Native Hawaiians; and

 

WHEREAS, the use of culture-based rehabilitation activities should be encouraged and the individuals who dedicate their time and energy to make these programs possible should be recognized; now, therefore,

 

BE IT RESOLVED by the House of Representatives of the Thirty-first Legislature of the State of Hawaii, Regular Session of 2021, the Senate concurring, that the Department of Public Safety is urged to recognize the value of culture-based rehabilitation activities in the State's correctional system; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the use of and access to culture-based rehabilitation activities in the State should be increased; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Hawaii Paroling Authority is requested to promote participation in culture-based rehabilitation activities and to provide appropriate credit to inmates participating in those activities for purposes of parole decisions; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that any new correctional facility built in the State be designed to include specific space and facilities for culture-based rehabilitation activities; and

 

BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that certified copies of this Concurrent Resolution be transmitted to the Governor, Director of Public Safety, Chairperson of the Hawaii Paroling Authority, and director and producers of the "Out of State" film.

Report Title:

Department of Public Safety; Corrections; Culture-Based Rehabilitation