HONOLULU (KHON2) — State officials are now considering whether some inmates should be released rather than risk an outbreak behind bars. Friday, prosecuting attorneys from each county met to discuss how this would work.
The Department of the Attorney General said each county prosecutor will give the Office of the Public Defender a list of inmates who may be released and those who they don’t want let loose.
“The way we proceed with each case is working with the Public Defender’s office and determining who is at risk… age, health, and then also to see whether or not the category of offenses is non-violent,” Donald Guzman, Maui County prosecuting attorney.
He said they’re mainly looking at inmates with non-violent petty misdemeanors and misdemeanors. All county prosecuting attorneys say they’re assessing every individual.
“It’s a really difficult decision because you have to weigh two things – one the danger to the community with letting these people out, and the danger to the community if you have an outbreak in the jail that will swamp our medical system,” said Mitchell Roth, Hawaii County prosecuting attorney.
Roth said he doesn’t have a number of how many prisoners could possibly be released. For Maui, Guzman said it’s around 17 inmates.
For Oahu, the Office of the Prosecuting Attorney said that number could be in the hundreds. However, the acting City and County of Honolulu Prosecuting Attorney Dwight Nadamoto, said they won’t release anyone without a chance to review each case.
“I recognize the importance of reducing the risks to inmates, corrections officers and their families, but that cannot override my duty to protect the public. Dangerous criminals cannot be turned loose into our neighborhoods” said Nadamoto.
What will happen after the inmates are released hasn’t been discussed yet, but the Department of the Attorney General said in order for an inmate to be released, they have to have a verifiable residence.
Making sure they will stay in their homes during the stay-at-home order is another matter.
“We did look in to see if there were ankle monitors available and how many could be provided, and we’re still trying to come up with the resources as well,” said Guzman.
There will be another meeting next Tuesday to discuss the process. There’s no word yet on when inmates may start being released.