State moving ahead with halfway house


Kona will be the newest home to a clean and sober house for Department of Public Safety felony inmates making the transition back into the community.

Public Safety Director Ted Sakai confirmed Wednesday that the department recently awarded a three-year, $200,000 contract to HOPE Services Hawaii to provide housing and case management services to up to 50 adult male and female felony inmates in the Kona area. The contract goes into effect on Oct. 15.

He said the contract does not specify where the halfway house will be operated, but that it must be in Kona, Sakai said. HOPE Services has also agreed to provide on-site drug testing, he added.

“We’ve never actually had these kinds of services for Kona,” said Sakai, who hails from the Big Island. “We want to make sure that offenders out there in Kona have the support they need to keep them straight.”

HOPE Services Hawaii Chief Executive Officer Brandee Menino was unable to be reached for comment as of press time Wednesday. The nonprofit operates The Friendly Place Drop-In Center in West Hawaii and the West Hawaii Emergency Housing Program, which was built in 2010 with $1.77 million in federal, state and county grants.

The re-entry program facility will target inmates who are from the Kona side of Hawaii Island and are nearing the end of their terms at Hawaii Community Correctional Center in Hilo. The inmates must be designated as on “extended furlough, community custody status” in order to take part in the program.

The determination is made on a case-by-case basis and takes into account crimes committed, length of time served, behaviors and other factors. The state defines extended furlough as a program for nonviolent offenders who live and work in the community, but are required to return to a correctional facility during weekday or weekend evenings.

Currently, inmates hailing from West Hawaii who attained the status reside at one of two facilities on the island that are both in East Hawaii: the department’s Hale Nani in Panaewa and a similar program run by HOPE Services in Hilo.

They must travel, in most cases via bus, to Kona to work before riding the bus back to one of the East Hawaii facilities, Sakai said. That was one of the big reasons Sakai said the department is pushing for the Kona halfway house.

“We’re creating this place in Kona to make it easier for them, and to make it easier for us to supervise,” Sakai said.”The more successful the inmates are, the less likely they are to come back (into incarceration).”

According to the department’s November request for information, the provider must provide 24/7 clean and sober living arrangements and on-site accountability supervision of inmates, and case management services to assist with re-entry. The state and inmate would cover rent expenses.

The request does not include any requirements for licensing or security, other than noting staff employed must not be currently serving a criminal sentence, “be suitable to deal with these inmates” and subcontractors must be notified of inmate status. An employee with a criminal history has to be approved by Public Safety.

Recording requirements would include keeping the department “informed” of the staff-to-inmate ratio, promptly reporting any negative behaviors or violations, maintaining records for department review, as well as sending monthly case and expenditure reports.

“The purpose of the project is to successfully reintegrate these inmates through a clean and sober house that will reduce the chances of re-offending while enhancing the inmate’s ability to become a productive member of society,” according to the department’s November request for information. “The goals … are the development of necessary skills for pro-social independent living and to promote a drug-free lifestyle.”

In addition, the department is in the process of executing contracts with Lokahi Treatment Centers to provide in Kona substance abuse assessment and treatment and the state’s Workforce Development Division to provide job development and placement services for the reintegrating inmates.

Sakai said the department has added an additional parole officer for the Kona area, bringing the number of officers serving the West Hawaii area to two.