State to identify inmates that may be released from prison amid COVID-19 concerns

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HONOLULU (KHON2) — The Department of the Attorney General said efforts are underway to identify certain inmates that may be released from prison.

This is in response to a petition filed by the Office of the Public Defender, which asked to commute or suspend jail or sentences for people serving time for misdemeanors or as a condition of a felony probation.

The Hawaii Correctional System Oversight Commission thinks releasing some prisoners at this time, is the right thing to do.

“Now with overcrowding, social distancing within the correctional facility is difficult.in itself. So we should be thinking about how we can lessen the populations in order to create space,” said Mark Patterson, chair of the commission.

The Attorney General said they will do this but it will not be taken lightly, writing quote:

“Temporarily releasing inmates or suspending jail sentences could create risks of harm to victims and other persons in the community… All sectors of the criminal justice system should participate in this unprecedented process”

That process includes ensuring each person has a place to go, will not put another person at harm, and is tracked by the system.

The Department said it will also ensure that any release of inmates doesn’t tax the limited resources focused on COVID-19 response.

Patterson said it’s a step in the right direction.

“We need to look at the prison as well so that we don’t have a crazy situation going on in the prison facilities. We have to understand we have a lot of workers going in and out of those prisons on a daily basis,” said Patterson.

On Friday law enforcement entities, public defenders and the judiciary will discuss the process for evaluating the release.

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