Judge rules in favor of state in reopening Big Island prison; Hawaiian group plans to appeal



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HILO, Hawaii — A Hilo judge's ruling dismisses a lawsuit claiming the state failed to consider the Kulani Correctional Facility as a site for a wellness center instead of a prison.

The state Department of Public Safety reopened the minimum-security prison this month and brought in the first group of 21 inmates earlier this week. It was closed in 2009 to help balance the state budget.

Hilo Circuit Judge Glenn Hara on Wednesday granted the department's request for summary judgment against a Hawaiian group that sued to block the prison's reopening, Hawaii Tribune-Herald (http://ow.ly/zy6kp ) reported.

Among the group Ohana Hoopakele's arguments is that a prison is an improper use of crown lands once owned by the Hawaiian monarchy. They wanted to have a puuhonua, or place of refuge or healing, at the site.

Representatives of the group said they will appeal the decision. "God, we pray for an appellate angel," said Georgette Yaindl, the group's attorney.

Department Director Ted Sakai said he's working with kupuna, Hawaii Community College and the broader community to develop a correctional program based on Hawaiian cultural values.

"So, we've invited members of the community to work with us to develop a program that can be effective, that can (give) inmate participants a sense of who they are and where they came from," he said.

Ohana Hoopakele President Ralph Palikapu Dedman said the group would be willing to meet with the department about creating a puuhonua.

"But have they ever talked to us? No," he said.


Information from: Hawaii Tribune-Herald, http://www.hawaiitribune-herald.com/

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