Wednesday, September 29, 2010

 

The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System


By Henry Curtis

The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) has just released a report that points out that Native Hawaiians make up 24% of the state's general population but 39% of those incarcerated by the state criminal justice system.


This can be read two different ways.

* Native Hawaiians are NO more likely to commit crimes, but are more likely to be imprisoned. (TRUE)

* Native Hawaiians are more likely to commit crimes and therefore more likely to be arrested. (FALSE)

All societies that have ever existed have used drugs.

Since the U.S. drug wars started a few decades ago, the majority of those arrested and imprisoned are low-level non-violent illegal drug users and people of color.

The economic elite have chosen to imprison those who are economically challenged: American Indians, Blacks and Native Hawaiians.

Anyone who has studied history knows that organized crime started in this country during prohibition.

Our drug laws are now a billion dollar industry consisting of public and private law enforcement and public and private prisons. The private prisons make higher profit by turning lower level offenders into higher level offenders.

We are creating the problem that we say we oppose. What a system!

The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System was compiled through research by the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute (JPI), and experts at the University of Hawai‘i and Georgetown University.

The State Legislature passed House Concurrent Resolution (HCR) 27 HD1 (2009): “The Office of Hawaiian Affairs is requested to contract with a nationally respected and objective consulting firm to conduct a study of disparate treatment of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii's criminal justice system; and ...the Office of Hawaiian Affairs is requested to submit, not later than twenty days prior to the convening of the Regular Session of 2010, the consultant's findings and recommendations, including any proposed legislation, for reducing disparate treatment of Native Hawaiians in Hawaii's criminal justice system”

The following was sent out by Kat Brady


Aloha Justice Advocates!

Native Hawaiians Over-Represented in Hawai'i's Criminal Justice System

Groundbreaking research shows that Native Hawaiians are more likely to be incarcerated than other racial or ethnic groups in Hawai'i

· Executive Summary

· Full Report

· Fact Sheets

· OHA Press Release

Here are the links to the news coverage of the press conference:

KITV

KHON

KGMB


Here’s the press release from the Justice Policy Institute:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

September 29, 2010

NATIVE HAWAIIANS OVER-REPRESENTED IN HAWAI'I'S CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

HONOLULU, HAWAI'I - The Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) released a new report today, The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System, which examines the impact of the criminal justice system on Native Hawaiians. While detailing how Native Hawaiians are disproportionately impacted at various stages of Hawai'i's criminal justice system, the report also includes first-hand accounts of Native Hawaiian concerns with the criminal justice system and how it affects their families and their culture. Native Hawaiians are the indigenous, native people of Hawai'i. Findings from the report show that the criminal justice system incarcerates Native Hawaiians at a disproportionate rate.


"This crucial research shows the need to address the unfair treatment of Native Hawaiians in our state's criminal justice system," said Clyde Nâmu'o, OHA's chief executive officer. "Native Hawaiians make up almost 40 percent of the populations in Hawai'i's prisons and jails. We are more likely to be sent to prison, and for longer periods of time, than nearly every other racial or ethnic community in Hawai'i. OHA strongly supports a fair justice system and this study sets the course for change."

Additional key findings in the report include:

· Of the people serving a prison term in Hawai'i, approximately 50 percent are housed in facilities on the mainland. Of this population, about 41 percent are Native Hawaiian, the most highly-represented group. While incarcerated out of state, these people are further disconnected from their communities, families and culturally appropriate services for re-entry.

· Native Hawaiians do not use drugs at drastically different rates from people of other races or ethnicities, but Native Hawaiians go to prison for drug offenses more often than people of other races or ethnicities.

· Once released from prison, Native Hawaiians experience barriers that prevent them from participating in certain jobs, obtaining a drivers license, voting, continuing education, obtaining housing and keeping a family together.

· Without a sufficient number of culturally appropriate services, Native Hawaiians are not given the best chance at achieving success upon re-entry into the community.
"In 2009 the OHA Board submitted Concurrent Resolutions to the 25th Legislature noting that a study would be helpful in determining the extent, nature and impact of perceived disparities. The Senate urged with the House of Representatives concurring in HCR27, HD1, that OHA should contract a nationally respected and objective consulting firm to conduct a study of disparate treatment of Native Hawaiians in Hawai'i's criminal justice system. That study is now complete." said OHA Chairperson Apoliona.

The resulting report provides a number of recommendations to reduce the unfair impact of the justice system on Native Hawaiians, including:

· Reform the criminal justice system in Hawai'i to embrace the cultural values of Native Hawaiians. Changing the justice system so it is in line with culturally significant norms and values will help preserve a historic culture and strengthen the Hawaiian community and its identity.

· Develop a targeted plan to reduce racial disparities. One immediate proposal by OHA is the establishment of a task force that will review the findings and recommendations of the report, and formulate policies and procedures to eliminate the disparate treatment of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system. Members of the task force will include OHA, government agencies, legislators, prosecutors, public defenders, the state attorney general, the judiciary, public safety and probation officials, the police, a former prisoner and treatment providers.

· Concentrate efforts to reduce the punitive nature of the criminal justice system and fund community-based alternatives to incarceration. Investing in alternatives to incarceration and the investment of funds into re-entry and preventative programs will aid in addressing the disproportionate impact on Native Hawaiians.

· Reduce collateral consequences associated with criminal justice involvement. The current system deprives pa'ahao of full integration into the community. Barriers to education, housing, employment and parental rights only serve to increase the likelihood of future re-imprisonment which would further destabilize families and communities.

The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System was written at the request of the Hawai'i state legislature following the approval of House Concurrent Resolution 27, and was compiled through research by the Washington, D.C.-based Justice Policy Institute (JPI), and experts at the University of Hawai'i and Georgetown University.

Comments:

America has 5% of the worlds population and 25% of all people in prison mainly due to minor drug offenses. I'm trying to find a word to describe this madness, oh! I know this is just plain "STUPID". One of the main groups that was lobbying for the three strikes and you're out law was the for profit prison syndicate. This is why there are certain things that cannot be privatized. Just to name another is private companies who make computerized voting machines. Hard to have confidence in our elections when right wing conservative corporations are counting our ballots.
 


Mahalo, Henry and Kat, for your review/summary of the report. I've skimmed it myself and have the following thoughts, some in response to yours:

1. Having been at this for 25+ years, I was pleased to see some rigorous statistical analysis for once, instead of the usual blasé generalizations that drive (not inform) criminal justice policy. That being said, more needs to be done, quantitatively (e.g., I didn't see evidence of comparisons based on prior criminal history, just age at time of offense, or correlations based on education and other socioeconomic indicators) and qualitatively (e.g., what inferences, if any, can be drawn about the motivation or, at least, cause for the disparity).

2. I think it's somewhat dangerous (and plays into the hands of the H. William Burgesses of the world) to suggest that the causes of the disparity and the solutions are not somewhat, and often largely, applicable to other races. For example, you note the report's observation that "Once released from prison, Native Hawaiians experience barriers that prevent them from participating in certain jobs, obtaining a drivers license, voting, continuing education, obtaining housing and keeping a family together." Uh, don't Caucasians, Asians, and other Pacific Islanders released from prison face the same obstacles? And, if one goal of the proposed task force is to "formulate policies and procedures to eliminate the disparate treatment of Native Hawaiians in the criminal justice system," wouldn't it be safe to say that many policies designed to reduce Native Hawaiian's representation in the criminal justice system would also serve to reduce the representation of other groups in the criminal justice system? Wouldn't that be a good thing? Or should those policies be applied only to Native Hawaiians and what implications would that choice have?

3. I must take exception, personally and intellectually, with the following statement: "Anyone who has studied history knows that organized crime started in this country during prohibition." I have studied history, thank you very much, and that statement can best be described as hyperbolic or, at the very least, gross rhetorical excess. Organized crime existed long before Prohibition in the form of control of gambling (numbers rackets, in particular), extortion/protection rackets, loan-sharking, sex trafficking, you name it. These were especially prevalent in immigrant communities because they are most easily exploited due to lack of education (especially in language and vocational skills) and related lack of access to employment, housing, etc. However, organized crime prior to the 20th century existed at the local and regional level. That was partly due to limited communication and transportation infrastructure but mostly because enforcement of criminal law during this period was a local and state endeavor. It was not until the federal government began to assert its jurisdiction over criminal activity -- under the guise of regulating interstate commerce -- that organized crime became nationalized. With the ratification of the 16th amendment in 1913 finally establishing the constitutionality of the federal income tax and the 18th amendment establishing prohibition in 1920, criminal activity subject to these and other new national laws became nationally organized. So, no, organized crime did not start during Prohibition.

4. As for Clyde Namuo, he was Deputy Administrative Director of the Courts and a longtime Judiciary employee before going to OHA. Where was he on this issue then?

Mahalo!
 


Mahalo for your thoughtful comments, Ned. This report is a great jumping off point and highlights the need for more data collection and analysis. Some of the data you refer to has just started to be collected with the introduction of the LSI instrument that uses motivational interviewing techniques to glean more information about the individual so that the appropriate level of service can be provided.

I understand your comment about it being dangerous to suggest that the causes of the disparity and the solutions are not somewhat, and often largely, applicable to other races. Yet drug use, for instance, is pretty even across the socioeconomic spectrum, however, our prisons are full of people of color (mostly Native Hawaiians) incarcerated for this offense. The state reports 40% of the incarcerated population is Native Hawaiian, yet anyone who has been in our facilities will report that the percentage of Native Hawaiians is actually much higher and most are in for drugs or drug-related offenses.

You are correct that all individuals exiting incarceration face huge obstacles, however, the largest percentage of people sent to serve their sentences abroad are Native Hawaiian. This alienation from `ohana and their ancestral lands only add to the difficulty of reentering their communities. And the fact that the Lingle administration has patently ignored Act 8 of 2007, Hawai`i’s reentry law has not helped. In fact, it has done a major disservice to communities across our islands.

The Pew Charitable Trusts has just released a report, COLLATERAL COSTS: Incarceration’s Effect on Economic Mobility http://www.pewtrusts.org/uploadedFiles/wwwpewtrustsorg/Reports/Economic_Mobility/Collateral%20Costs%20FINAL.pdf. The report concludes: “The good news is that years of research and analysis point the way toward solutions that reduce crime, contain spending and enhance the economic prospects of offenders and their families. To support upward mobility, states can invest in programs that reconnect former inmates with the labor market and remove obstacles to reintegration. To stop the revolving door of incarceration, states can invest in research-based policies and programs in the community that keep former inmates on the straight and narrow, improve public safety and cost far less than incarceration. In so doing, policy makers can ensure a more level playing field and greater prosperity for millions of Americans, their families, and society at large.”

And yes, reducing the prison population and reallocating money from incarceration into community programs (especially for drug treatment and mental health services) would save money and enhance community safety. Community Alliance on Prisons has been working to promote more scientific and data-driven policies. Our hope is that after this election Hawai`i will have a more compassionate, humane, and enlightened administration that does some ‘out of the cell’ thinking!
 

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