NATIVE HAWAIIAN JUSTICE?
On June 8, Hawaii Public Radio‘s Wayne Yoshioka filed a great story on a thoroughly lousy subject: the Native Hawaiian Justice Commission’s two-day summit this week on the question of why Native Hawaiians make up “less than a quarter” of the state’s population but “more than 40 percent” of those incarcerated in our prisons (including those on the Mainland contracted to hold Hawaii inmates).
This is not even close to being a new subject. In 2010, the state’s Office of Hawaiian Affairs (OHA) published a report exploring why Native Hawaiians were so thoroughly over-represented in the criminal justice system. It concluded that the matter was so bad it was destroying Native Hawaiian society:
“It is clear that when a Native Hawaiian person enters the criminal justice system, they serve more time in prison and more time on probation than other racial or ethnic groups,” states the OHA report. “Native Hawaiians are also likely to have their parole revoked and be returned to prison compared to other racial or ethnic groups. Coupled with the experiences of pa‘ahao included in the pages of this report, it is clear that Native Hawaiians are caught in a cycle of imprisonment that is perpetuated across generations.”
Three years before the OHA report, Greg Mebel looked at the reasons for the disparate treatment in his Jan. 4, 2001 MauiTime cover story “Hawaiian Justice.” He found a diverse list of factors, including poverty, the high cost of living, discrimination and Hawaii’s own colonial past. In fact, Mebel found that Native Hawaiians are getting knocked about in just about everything society has to offer:
“At this point, Native Hawaiians own most of the top misery indices in Hawaii,” Mebel wrote. “These include high percentages in prison, high infant mortality, high rates of illness, low educational attainment, low income-level, high unemployment and high rates of drug addiction and alcoholism. They’re not even adequately represented in competitive surfing—a sport Native Hawaiians invented: ‘When 29-year-old Maikalani Kaiolohia Robb (a.k.a. Kalani Robb) and 36-year-old Vincent Sennen Garcia (a.k.a. Sunny Garcia) retired from the World Championship Tour last year, they became the last Native Hawaiians to compete on the coveted World Championship Tour,’ reported a recent issue of Free Surf Magazine.”
According to Yoshioka’s report, commission chairman Michael Broderick (a former judge) outlined virtually all the same issues, which isn’t surprising, considering how long groups have been discussing the issue around Hawaii. This fact wasn’t lost on Kauai County Councilmember Mel Rapozo, who told Yoshioka who had some pretty scathing things to say about the nearly endless discussion of this issue:
“I was on the state’s anti-drug committee,” he said, according to the HPR report. “I was on the county’s anti-drug committee. I quit both of ‘em because it was the same old nonsense: talking, talking, talking, talking, talking. But where’s the money? It costs federal money, state money and county money. But that is one of the biggest problems that we have, and it’s one of the biggest excuses that I think we use. Oh, the economy, well, the economy hasn’t always been bad. We never did anything when the economy was good. So let’s get real.”
I couldn’t locate a website for the Native Hawaiian Justice Commission, even though it was set up last year, which doesn’t bode well for the commission’s ability to reach Hawaii’s residents. I did find a PDF of the commission’s Feb. 7, 2012 hearing minutes, which lists the following nine members:
• Paul Perrone, Chief of Research & Statistics,
Department of the Attorney General
• Jack Tonaki, Public Defender
• Honorable Richard K. Perkins, 1st Circuit Court Judge
• Joe Booker, Deputy Director, Public Safety
• Dr. Kamana`opono Crabbe, Office of Hawaiian Affairs
• Cheryl Marlow, Adult Client Services Branch Administrator
• Michael F. Broderick, Chairman (President, CEO
YMCA of Honolulu) (Public member)
• RaeDeen Karasuda, Senior Research Associate,
Kamehameha Schools (Criminologist member)
• Jeff Kent, OHA Public Policy Advocate III
Anyone want to wager on whether the commission’s work actually leads to some kind of tangible reform? Anyone at all?
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CONGRATULATIONS TO US!
And now I’m going to pat myself on the back for a job very well done. That job was for doing very little editing to former MauiTime Associate Editor Anu Yagi (who stepped down last month to pursue new challenges). See, last week her now-discontinued column Kula Kid won this paper its very first Editorial Award from the Association of Alternative Newsmedia (AAN).
As longtime readers of MauiTime know very well, Anu is an exceptional writer, and her Kula Kid column was always thoughtful, literate, funny and a joy to read. That was due entirely her to skills–I never had to do more than tweak her work, which in my 16 years as a reporter and editor is a rare thing. Having the national trade organization for alt weeklies like MauiTime recognize those skills and award Anu a very prestigious First Prize award (in the papers-that-circulate-less-than-50,000-copies category) reflects greatly on her, and on this paper. I could not be more proud.
But Anu wasn’t the only winner: former MauiTime art directors Chris Skiles and Justin “Scrappers” Morrison–along with current photographer Sean M. Hower–shared an Honorable Mention award for three covers they worked on: the Fashion Issue (Feb. 4, 2011), the Taste of Maui Issue (Sept. 1, 2011) and the Bar Guide (Oct. 20, 2011).
All of their work for MauiTime was wonderful, and while recognition like this is great, it also makes us miss Anu, Chris and Justin a little bit more.