After five years, Hilo’s Kulani Correctional Facility opens its doors to inmates once again. In 2009, the previous governor of the state closed the Big Island’s prison to cut spending. In 2014, Governor Nick Abercrombie reopened the facility with some renovations. The inmates will be helping to complete the work, learning building skills that will translate into life on the outside.
Over 100 corrections officers were affected and 200 inmates had to be moved when Governor Lingle closed the prison is 2009. Some of the inmates were placed in other facilities in Hawaii, but the unlucky ones were shipped to the mainland; far from family and friends. Studies show that when inmates keep close familiar relationships, they are less likely to end up back in prison. Maintaining inmates’ relationships with their families is one of the main reasons Governor Abercrombie decided to reopen the prison. Being locked up is hard enough, he believes reopening the prison will offer many other benefits too, including reducing strain on the over-taxed correction system.
The facility will provide drug treatment programs and job skills training to help inmates better integrate back into society. Warden, Ruth Coller Forbes issued a statement saying that she hopes the training will prepare for life after prison and never return.
Although there seems to be many positives about the reopening of Kulani, community groups tried to put a stop to the prison opening. The group filed a lawsuit because they had hoped for a different use for the facility. The suit was dismissed in mid-2014.