Hawaii Prisoners Should Not Be Released Early as Proposed Under Justice Reinvestment Act


April 20, 2012



This state’s proposed Justice Reinvestment Act, now in the form of (SB 2776, SD2 /HD2, Relating to Public Safety), is an “early prisoner release bill” that amends current state law in a manner that can affect neighborhood security.

With 1,100 prison inmates released in the first three years of the program, there will be some recidivism, some crimes and many victims.  Why the need for this early release?  Is it cost-cutting?  If so, is public safety jeopardized?

Section 13 requires that the Authority parole an inmate no later than eighteen  months prior to the expiration of his/her court-imposed maximum sentence if the offense is a Class A felony.  The applicable time for Class B and Class C felons is no later than six months and twelve months, respectively.

This administration wishes to mandate early parole for potentially the most dangerous of these three classes of felons.  Although the early release is subject to the Hawaii Paroling Authority’s determination that the inmate has an acceptable parole plan, the Authority’s discretion regarding the timing of parole is significantly compromised.

Early release, as well as other components of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, is based on a so-called “evidence-based, data-driven approach”.  The proponents of Justice Reinvestment repeatedly point to the fact that they will seek out low risk candidates, and justify the use of broad, sweeping changes merely because they are based on empirical data.  Before we get caught up in the hype, let us stop for a moment and remember that “evidence-based practice” comes from ideas based on rational, optimal behavior in a planned and systematically organized environment.

The danger in relying on assumptions made by the evidence-based approach is that human beings do not always act rationally or optimally.  This is demonstrated by the very fact that offenders ended up in prison because they failed to act rationally when committing the crime that got them incarcerated in the first place.

We have laws prohibiting certain kinds of behavior and prescribing certain punishments for violating the law.  Yet, the prospect of punishment did not lead any of these inmates to behave rationally or optimally – i.e. refrain from committing any crime in order to avoid punishment.

The sheer number of prisoners who will be released primarily on Oahu is frightening.   At what rate were inmates released from mainland prisons?  We should not assume that Justice Reinvestment will be as effective in Hawaii simply because of claims that it has been effective on the mainland.

This bill attempts to make drastic changes all at once.  Is this a case of too much too soon?  Before we put all our faith into this approach and enact wholesale change, please consider a more cautious and prudent approach by implementing a few of the ideas to see how they work out in Hawaii’s criminal justice system.  For example, should we not start early release with low-risk Class C felons – in other words,  lower-level felons?  We should spell out and limit early release only to Class C felons who committed property crimes as opposed to violent acts.  The Legislature can then come back to expand the program, after it has had time to observe the results, and determine the degree its implementation affects public safety.

Despite my feelings on the majority of the bill, I do believe that restitution reform is long overdue in our State.  I agree with the following suggestions proposed by the Department of the Prosecuting Attorney for the City and County of Honolulu.  These were stated in their letter dated March 21, 2012 to the House Judiciary Committee.  “We agree that additional measures are needed to facilitate payment of restitution to crime victims; however, Section 10 of this bill would do very little to improve things, as the vast majority of offenders owing restitution are not in prison, and other sections of this bill propose to release even more people from our prisons.  To effectively facilitate restitution payments, the Department suggests incorporating language from H.B. 2394.”

Rep. Thielen supports earth day – Hemp Technologies

Representative Cynthia Thielen supports earth day on the chamber floor

On Youtube segments  Rep. Thielen discusses Hemp Technologies with Greg Flavall and Jay Fidell

On YouTube:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V5btreRx4PU  Part 1
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RrZBAx6yQ34  Part 2
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAro3tClUVg  Part 3
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ethohOByo4E- Part 4

For more information visit the website http://www.hemtecusa.com or contact repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov

excerpt from Capitol TV

Reps. Thielen and Ward address HB 425 – Public Utilities Commission; Electric Utility Rates

H.B. No. 425, H.D. 3, S.D. 2 RELATING TO PUBLIC UTILITIES. (Public Utilities Commission; Electric Utility Rates)

The stated purpose of this bill is to direct PUC to: (1) Consider the need for a diverse portfolio of fossil fuel resources and (2) Mitigate supply disruptions and cost impacts on electricity ratepayers.
**The SD2 draft of this bill is exactly the same as the HD2 draft.**
The current (SD2) draft
• (1) Has a purpose paragraph that, in part anticipates: “[U]nless there are major technological breakthroughs, it is anticipated that in 2030, 60% of electricity generation will come from fossil fuels.”
• (2) Adds new subsection (c) to HRS 269-6 (General powers and duties of the PUC)
that states in full:
(c) In exercising its authority and duties under this chapter, the public utilities commission shall consider the costs and benefits of a diverse fossil fuel portfolio and of maximizing the efficiency of all electric utility assets to lower and stabilize the cost of electricity. Nothing in this section shall subvert the obligation of electric utilities to meet the renewable portfolio standards set forth in section 269-92.
Note: HRS 269-92 sets minimum standards for the amount an electricity utility company’s portfolio that must be renewable energy (as a percentage of net electricity sales).

This bill could distract PUC from concentrating on how to end Hawaii’s use of expensive, imported fossil fuels that do not contribute to clean energy innovation.
Sierra Club: Purpose section assumes we need to gel approximately 60% of our power from fossil fuels in 2030. New statutory language should say “diverse energy portfolio” instead of “diverse fuel portfolio”.
Blue Planet Foundation: “This policy amendment would distract the PUC from what we believe should be a primary focus: end the use of expensive, imported fossil fuel in Hawaii.

Contact: repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov excerpt from Capitol TV

Rep. Marumoto addresses SB 3001 – Wild or Feral Deer; Interisland Transportation

Stand. Comm. Rep. No. 1559-12 S.B. No. 3001, S.D. 2, H.D. 2 RELATING TO WILDLIFE.
(Wild or Feral Deer; Interisland Transportation) AS AMENDED, PASS THIRD READING

The purpose of the bill is to deter the interisland transportation of wild or feral deer and establish penalties for violations. The bill creates a new section in HRS chapter 183D (“Wildlife” under Title 12, Conservation and Resources). The bill:
• Prohibits the intentional, knowing, or reckless transfer, transport, AND release after transport through interisland movement of any wild or feral deer (unless authorized by permit for scientific or educational purposes).
• Defines “feral” as “having escaped or been released from domestication and living in a wild and unconfined state.”
• “A deer that has been captured shall no longer be considered feral.” [This language is highly problematic; it is overly broad and defeats the purpose of the bill. On its face, any wild deer can be captured and immediately transported interisland without violating the law. This definition was probably meant to address once-feral animals that have been domesticated or have been fenced in under a rancher or farmer’s care.]
• Penalizes violations as a misdemeanor offense, punishable by up to 1 year in jail and/or mandatory minimum fines ($10,000 for first offense, $15,000 and $25,000 for subsequent offenses within a 5-year period) and payment of eradication costs.
Groups previously in support of the bill (DLNR, Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS), Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy) were all in opposition, because the bill was amended to address deer only. They feel the bill should address all feral mammals, because pigs and goats are a big problem as well.
They also raised concerns about the definition of feral. Current language indicating that a captured deer will not be considered feral will only defeat the purpose of the bill.

DLNR, Coordinating Group on Alien Pest Species (CGAPS), Sierra Club, Nature Conservancy, Oahu Invasive Species committee, HI Farm Bureau.
Humane Society of the US supports the bill, but also wants to prohibit the possessing, breeding, and raising of live feral animals (this is not addressed in HD2).

Contact: repmarumoto@capitol.hawaii.gov excerpt from Capitol TV

Rep. Thielen addresses SB 2438 – Public Utilities Commission

Stand. Comm. Rep. No. 1534-12 S.B. No. 2438, S.D. 1, H.D. 2 RELATING TO THE PUBLIC UTILITIES COMMISSION.(Public Utilities Commission; Technological Readiness; Hawaii Natural Energy Institute) AS AMENDED, PASS THIRD READING

The purpose of this bill is to support renewable energy development by requiring director of Hawaii Natural Energy Institute, upon request of PUC, to provide analysis of technology readiness of renewable energy projects.
Version HD2 of this bill does not specify (leaves blank) technology readiness level:
• At or below which PUC is prohibited from approving proposal or contract;
• Above which PUC authorized to consider proposal or contract; provided positive external factors — including consumer cost, job creation, capital attraction, extra tax revenues — found in final determination.
Draft HD2 would make wave energy projects at Kaneohe Marine Corps Base and other renewable energy projects below readiness Level 7 eligible for PUC analysis. Earlier version would have excluded such projects.
Draft HD1:
• Adds purpose section;
• Creates new section in chapter 296, part V, specifying technology readiness levels for PUC’s renewable energy projects criteria;
• Requires director of Hawaii Natural Energy Institute to provide assessment of technology readiness for proposed renewable energy project upon request of PUC;
• Requires all proposed renewable energy projects of PUC be of technology readiness Level 7 or higher;
• Excludes proposals, contracts or demonstration projects of less than three years from requirements of measure.
Rep. Thielen voted “No” on HD1 in EEP because bill likely would have impeded pilot programs for promising renewable energy technologies such as wave power. Wave energy technology is at Level 6, meaning engineering-scale models or prototypes have been tested in environment closely resembling actual operating environment.

Contact: repthielen@capitol.hawaii.gov  Excerpt from Capitol TV