- Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — More Youth Become Eligible for Restorative Justice in Hawaii: Some youth in Hawaii are eligible for “informal adjustment,” a non-judicial termination of a referral to court that is allowed when a youth admits responsibility for an alleged offense and, with his or her parents, agrees to forgo a hearing and conclude the matter administratively. Now, thanks to new legislation, youth undergoing informal adjustment may partake in restorative justice programs. Restorative justice programs—which are not available to youth who are processed formally in the juvenile justice system—may be used in concert with other treatment options or services, such as drug treatment, anger management, or counseling. S.B. 61/Act No. 2013-62, signed into law and effective April 30, 2013.
- Alternatives to Detention and Youth Prisons — Juvenile Justice Reform Project Recommends Reducing Incarceration of Youth: In August 2013, Hawaii created the Hawaii Juvenile Justice Reform Project, a new bi-partisan inter-branch working group to analyze the juvenile justice system and use data and research findings to develop specific policy recommendations for the 2014 legislative session. The group’s final report was released December 13, 2013 and recommends reducing the population at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility by 60 percent by 2019, confining only youth who have committed the most serious offenses. The report recommends that the resulting savings—estimated to be $11 million over five years—be reinvested in local jurisdictions to fund community-based alternatives, such as mental health, substance abuse, and social services. The report also calls for strengthening of reentry, parole, diversion, informal adjustment, and monitoring practices.
- Sexual Exploitation of Youth — Hawaii Protects Victims of Human Trafficking: Hawaii passed legislation that authorizes a person convicted of a prostitution offense to file a motion to vacate the judgment if he or she can prove having been a victim of trafficking. S.B. 2576/Act No. 2012-216, signed into law and effective July 3, 2012.
- Youth in the Adult System — Legislature Limits Transfer of Youth to Adult Correctional Facilities: The Hawaii State Legislature repealed a law that authorized the Executive Director of the Office of Youth Services, with the approval of the family court, to transfer a committed youth from the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility to an adult correctional facility for disciplinary or other reasons. The legislation stemmed from the inability of adult facilities in Hawaii to maintain sight-and-sound separation between youth and adults, as required by the federal Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act. Testimony in support of the law from several state agencies and non-profit organizations additionally discussed the danger presented to youth placed in adult facilities, and the inadequacy of programming for youth in adult facilities. H.B. 1067/Act 18, signed into law April 26, 2011; effective July 1, 2011.
- Conditions of Confinement — Officials Gain Authority to Investigate Incidents at Youth Facilities: The Hawaii State Legislature authorized the Director of Human Services to appoint investigators to examine incidents at the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (HYCF), and gave these investigators access to necessary information maintained by state and county entities. The investigations cover incidents of use of force, staff-onyouth violence, serious youth-on-youth violence, inappropriate staff relationships with youth, sexual misconduct between youth, and abusive institutional practices at HYCF. Prior to the law, Hawaii had already moved toward improving the conditions of confinement at HYCF due to a 2004 U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) investigation spurred by complaints from an incarcerated youth to the American Civil Liberties Union of Hawaii. In 2006, a detailed memorandum of agreement was executed between the United States and the State of Hawaii, which covered constitutionally required care; substantive remedial measures; compliance and quality improvement; monitoring and enforcement; and reporting requirements and right of access. DOJ closed its investigation in May 2011. The new law in Hawaii now creates clearer state government oversight of HYCF. H.B. 1101/Act 62, signed into law May 18, 2009; effective July 1, 2009.