Like most states, Hawaii’s prison population has exploded in recent decades.
Between 1980 and its peak in 2005, the number of people incarcerated in Hawaii’s unified corrections system rose by 524 percent. While a slight decline followed, there were still 5,630 people incarcerated under the jurisdiction of the Hawai`i Department of Public Safety (PSD) in 2017. Many of Hawaii’s correctional facilities struggle with overcrowding, so much so that1,459 people under the PSD’s jurisdiction were serving their sentences in a private prison in Arizona as of November 2018.
Unsurprisingly, Hawaii’s incarceration crisis has had a particularly severe impact on people of color, especially Native Hawaiians and Pacific Islanders. In 2018, this group made up 23 percent of adults in the state, but a reported 47 percent of people incarcerated under Hawai`i’s jurisdiction that year. Black communities in Hawai`i are also disproportionately impacted by incarceration. Though just 3 percent of adults in Hawai`i were Black in 2018, PSD reported that 5 percent of people incarcerated under the state’s jurisdiction that year were Black. Further, incarceration is on the rise among Hawaiian women. Between 1990 and 2017, the number of women incarcerated in the state grew by 265 percent.
But it doesn’t have to be this way.
Hawai`i can dramatically reduce its incarcerated population by implementing just a few sensible reforms:
For more information, along with a detailed breakdown of Hawaii’s incarcerated population and the reforms needed to reduce it, click here.
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