Last month, I wrote to you about House Concurrent Resolution 157 HD1, which extended the Correctional Justice Task Force through 2018. This month, I am pleased to inform you of another task force being created to further address improvements to the criminal justice system. This task force, the Criminal PretrialTask Force, was created by the Legislature with the passage of House Concurrent Resolution 134 HD1, and will be convened by the Judiciary.
The Legislature’s objective in requesting the creation of a Criminal Pretrial Task Force is to examine and make recommendations regarding criminal pretrial practices and procedures to maximize public safety, maximize court appearances, and maximize pretrial release of the accused and presumed innocent. OHA, through my office, has been designated a seat on this taskforce.
In addition to the Office of Hawaiian Affairs, the task force will be composed of members or designees representing the following offices: the Chief Justice; a judicial officer representative of each Circuit Court; a member of the House of Representatives; a member of the Senate; a court administrator representative of each Circuit Court; a representative of the Department of the Attorney General; a representative from the Intake Services Center of the Department of Public Safety; a representative of the Prosecuting Attorney’s Office of each county; a representative of the Office ofthe Public Defender for the State of Hawai‘i; four representatives appointed by the Hawai‘i Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers consisting of one representative from each county; a representative of each county police department; a representative from the Department of Health; and a member of the public who has knowledge and expertise with the criminal pretrial system appointed by the Director of Public Safety.
As you can see, a wide array of officials will be serving on this task force. I am glad that OHA is among these designees, considering the disparate representation of our Native Hawaiian people in the criminal justice system. With such a large grouping of people from a wide array of backgrounds, I know the conversation will be diverse and robust. Keeping the voice of Native Hawaiians in these conversations will be of utmost importance and is a kuleana that OHA is proud to take on.
The task force has the administrative support of the Judiciary and the Department of Public Safety. Further, the Legislative Reference Bureau (LRB) will provide their assistance in preparing the task force’s report of its findings and recommendations. The task force will submit its draft to the LRB no later than August 1, 2018. The final report, which may also include proposed legislation, is due to the Legislature no later than twenty days prior to the convening of the Legislature’s Regular Session of 2019.
At this point in time, the Judiciary is collecting names and contact information of those designated through the authorizing resolution. Once all names have been collected, the Chief Justice will coordinate to convene the first meeting of the task force.
We hope that this task force can rise to the challenge of creating positive policy solutions to alleviate the substandard conditions and overcrowding in Hawai‘i’s jails, by reducing the high number of inmates held in pretrial detention simply because they cannot afford to post their bail for low-level offenses.
As I have done with the Correctional Justice Task Force, I will continue to keep you updated of any major milestones reached by this new task force, the Criminal Pretrial Task Force. I look forward to the continued conversations on these complex issues and to holding leaders in the criminal justice system accountable to the needs of Native Hawaiians.
Note: Trustee columns represent the views of individual trustees and may not reflect the official positions adopted by the Office of Hawaiian Affairs Board of Trustees.