To Jail And Back
If there’s anything more sadly symbolic than the idea of shipping our garbage to the Mainland, it’s the idea of shipping out our prisoners. Yet that’s exactly what we do. The combined capacity of the state’s four jails (on Oahu, Maui, the Big Island and Kauai) and four prisons (three on Oahu, one on the Big Island) is 3,487. Add the federal prison on Oahu and the number climbs to 4,349, but that’s still not nearly enough.
So the state contracts out, to three prisons in Eloy, Arizona owned by the private Corrections Corporation of America (CCA). It’s part of an “Inter-Governmental Agreement” (IGA) between the Aloha and Grand Canyon states, which, apparently, have complementary problems: too many prisoners and too many prisons.
But it’s not all symbiosis and roses says Hawaii State Auditor Marion Higa in a December report, which termed the state’s deal with Eloy “fundamentally flawed.” According to the report, the state Department of Public Safety (DPS) “conducts all transactions directly with CCA,” indicating that the arrangement “inappropriately used the IGA exemption and is circumventing the law.”
In addition, Higa writes, “the department has no written policies or procedures for contract administration, and the administrator and staff readily accepted CCA’s representations and conclusions of its performance without verifying statements against documented evidence.”
Essentially, the state used the smokescreen of a public partnership to send Hawaii inmates to private prisons in the Southwestern desert—with no oversight. Oh, and (to quote from the report again): “[The] IGA does not contain safeguards that protect the state’s interests in the event of a dispute or if funds are not appropriated or available to pay CCA, so the state is exposed to a liability risk.”
The good news? The contract with Eloy and CCA expires June 30, which gives DPS a shade under six months to figure out a better solution. Wait—did we say that was good news?
First Hawaii Tourists? A.D. 1190
The first Polynesian voyagers landed on Hawaii shores about 900 years ago, according to a group of scholars including UH Manoa professor of anthropology Terry Hunt. The group’s findings, published recently in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, shed new light on the chronology of Hawaiian history, which, as a UH press release puts it, has been “hotly debated and poorly resolved.”
After settling Samoa around 800 B.C., Polynesians spread to the central Society Islands circa 1100 A.D. and then to New Zealand, Hawaii and Easter Island somewhere between 1190 and 1290 A.D.
“This is an amazing feat of Polynesian sea voyaging and discovery, and represents a rate of dispersal unprecedented in oceanic prehistory,” said Janet Wilmshurst, a New Zealand paleoecologist also involved in the study. “It’s even more incredible given that these isolated islands are spread across a vast area of the Pacific Ocean from the subtropics to the sub-Antarctics. Nearly all of the 500 or so islands were discovered, despite being scattered across an area of ocean the size of North America.”
Hunt said the study, which analyzed more than 1,400 radiocarbon-dated objects, shows “that we can’t just accept dates for whatever they are.” As an example, Hall cites a piece of wood charcoal. “You can date the charcoal, but the question is when did the wood actually die? If ancient Polynesians used wood from an old tree, or worse, driftwood, the age would be centuries too old. When you want to know when people arrived on an island, you have to be careful what materials you choose to date.”
More information on the study, and its methodology, can be found at hawaii.edu.
State GOP: Dysfunctional Analysis
To say the Hawaii GOP took a beating in November is like saying…sorry, can’t think of anything else that painfully obvious. Afterward, activist Eric Ryan issued a scathing letter calling for the heads of heavyweights like then-Gov. Linda Lingle and chair Jonah Ka‘auwai and an audit of the party’s finances. In response, Ka‘auwai sent a missive to Hawaii Republicans branding Ryan “a disgruntled party member” and accusing him of “making off-base complaints and wild accusations.” (Ka‘auwai added that Ryan “would rather see the party hoard money and not spend it on winning elections,” conveniently forgetting they didn’t actually, you know, win many elections.)
Just when it seemed the story couldn’t get any more comically juicy, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported that Ka‘auwai has called a “closed door meeting” to “discuss financial matters…and approval of an audit committee.” Pity we weren’t invited.