We, the undersigned individuals and organizations, in commitment to the safety of our communities, oppose plans to build a new jail on O‘ahu to incarcerate 1,200 or more of our neighbors, acquaintances, family members and friends, and the native people of Hawai’i. We acknowledge that O‘ahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC) is severely overcrowded. However, criminal justice reform policies that reduce overcrowding is the solution, not building more jails. We recognize that jails are not prisons. OCCC is a jail. Jails house people awaiting trial, sentenced to one year or less for low level infractions, and incarcerated persons nearing the end of their longer sentences and preparing for work release. Building a new jail will not return the men incarcerated in Arizona’s private prison home.
The State projects spending a minimum of $525 MILLION on jail construction. It spends $152 a day currently to incarcerate an individual, or almost $25,000,000 per year to jail individuals statewide. This money would better serve our community if invested in Criminal Justice Reform policies that have proven cost-effective in reducing the incarcerated population, and stopping the revolving door to the criminal justice system. We support reducing the incarcerated population through decriminalizing minor offenses, sentencing reform, increased pre-arrest and pretrial diversion, eliminating cash bail, and revision of parole and probation requirements to reduce high recidivism rates. We also support expanding community-based mental health, medical, and substance abuse treatment services, educational and job training opportunities, restorative justice programs, and housing for the houseless.
Many communities, states and countries throughout the world are rethinking “tough on criminal” policies, and instead, implementing “Smart Justice” policies. These jurisdictions have greatly reduced recidivism rates, and emptied jails and prisons without increasing crime. For these reasons, we urge that plans for a new OCCC stop. We advocate that Hawai‘i leaders implement Smart Justice reform policies that use data-driven approaches to reduce mass criminalization and incarceration spending, and reinvesting savings in strategies that decreases crime and recidivism rates and strengthens communities.