Hawaii Prisons

My American Studies class at Honolulu Community College recently watched 13th (the documentary) and then were tasked with writing a question to be tweeted to the ACLU in regards to imprisonment in Hawaii. Here are the questions they asked as well as the answers we received! Thank you ACLU Hawaii and Civil Beat for your work on this issue. The images have been taken from CJR_Mass_incarceration2 provided by the ACLU.

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In regards to sexual assault cases @ Kailua women’s prison, why not enhance security? http://bigstory.ap.org/article/20a443611e0347b6b13839e0d76f8fd8/10-women-file-suit-claiming-abuse-hawaii-womens-prison

This is a very good question, and one best put to the Department of Public Safety. The government is required to comply with the U.S. and Hawai‘i State Constitutions in incarcerating people – this includes the 8th Amendment which protects against “cruel and unusual punishment.” Simply put, the loss of liberty is the punishment, the conditions of incarceration (including violence and lax security) should not be the punishment. The ACLU has been trying to improve the conditions in Hawaii’s prison and jails for decades. In fact, we recently filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice over the toxic overcrowding of our jails and prisons. I have attached it here: DOJ_Complaint_as_published. I have also attached a powerpoint presentation on mass incarceration that we recently created: CJR_Mass_incarceration2.

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Is there a diff punishment 4 nonviolent & drug crimes in #Hawaii?

Right now, Hawaii’s jails and prison have three serious issues. First, it is far too easy to be a felon (5 year sentence) in Hawaiʻi. Class C felonies include many non-violent crimes like possession of any drug paraphernalia, theft over $750, possession of any amount of a Schedule I drug, including Marijuana, etc. Class C felons and misdemeanants represent 74 percent of the people in prison. Additionally, Hawaii has a long history of criminalizing poverty, using our facilities as debtor’s prisons. Around 20 percent of the incarcerated population is there, because they cannot pay bail.  Finally, our prisons and jails have become de-facto mental wards and drug treatment facilities, with zero to minimal treatment options. It’s estimated that 80% of our incarcerated person suffer from addiction. This results in a revolving door of incarceration, no rehabilitation, and lifelong consequences in housing, education and employment.

There is a movement across the nation (of which the ACLU is part) called LEAD – Law Enforcement Assisted Diversion – which changes the role of police in the community from “arrest and book” to “assess and divert.” For example, take a mentally ill homeless person disturbing the peace. She usually has it together, but ran out of money for the drugs that help her function. Normally, the police would arrest her, take her to jail, book her and she would be offered bail, which she cannot pay, so they keep her in jail. No (or few) medications or medical treatment are offered. She will likely never see a doctor. On release, she goes right back to disturbing the peace, more ill and confused and angry than before. Under LEAD, the police approach her, assess her needs (shelter, help with her medications, medical attention), and instead of arresting her, offer her the option to see a social worker. They collect her name and information, and she will need to have a meeting with the social worker at a later time – but that is it. No jail, no criminal record. Treatment and help, not arrest. LEAD is very successful at reducing rescidivism. LEAD participants in Seattle were 58% less likely to be arrested. Find out more: https://www.leadbureau.org/

[Plus side note from the blogger that there’s a new bill going through the state legislature as of April 1, 2016 attempting to make drug paraphernalia no longer a Class C Felony but only a $100 fine. http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2017/bills/HB1501_HD1_.pdf]

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Why can’t #Hawaii make $ off prison so less inmates are sent to mainland?

They do. See http://www.staradvertiser.com/2011/02/14/hawaii-news/isle-prisons-become-key-source-of-labor/ [<< This article is incredible! Prisoners on work duty are even tasked with cleaning out homeless encampments, among a waiting list of other tasks.]

 

What about other religions in #Hawaii? http://www.civilbeat.org/2017/02/settlement-protects-religious-rights-for-hawaiian-prisoners/ …

A prisoner’s right to exercise his or her religion is balanced against the government’s interests. The general balancing test is that the government may not impose a substantial burden on the religious exercise of prisoners unless that burden (1) is in furtherance of a compelling governmental interest; and (2) is the least restrictive means of furthering that interest. You can read more here: https://www.aclu.org/files/images/asset_upload_file78_25744.pdf

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Is #Hawaii liable for safety of its prisoners on mainland?

Yes. Even when help in private, for-profit prisons like the Saguaro Correctional Center in Arizona housing upwards of 2000 Hawaii inmates, they are held under the authority of the State of Hawaii. The for-profit prison has a contract with the state, and is therefore treated as an agent of the state. That’s why when the ACLU took on two wrongful death cases after two Hawaii inmates were murdered in a CCA facility in Saguaro AZ, both the State and CCA were named as plaintiffs.  https://www.prisonlegalnews.org/in-the-news/2012/hrdc-aclu-of-hawaii-file-suit-on-behalf-of-family-of-hawaii-prisoner-slain-at-cca-prison/

 

What are problems w/ sending #Hawaii prisoners to mainland?

Any time there is profit motive for incarceration, there is a vested interest in keeping more people in jail longer, at lowest cost to the company to maximize shareholder profits.  This is antithetical to justice. See https://www.aclu.org/banking-bondage-private-prisons-and-mass-incarceration. Also, separating inmates from their loved ones is cruel and makes rehabilitation less likely.

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What are the 2016 demographics of #Hawaii prisons by crime?

Crime reports can be found here:  http://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/rs/cih/ and https://ag.hawaii.gov/cpja/files/2016/12/Crime-in-Hawaii-2015.pdf

Reasons for incarceration can be found here: https://www.prisonpolicy.org/profiles/HI.html [This has some excellent slides on racial and ethnic data in Hawaii’s prisons and Hawaiian prisoners on the mainland, that argue that these graphs don’t even account for some nuances in the actual reality of Native Hawaiians experiences in the prison system. For example:

In 2010, Office Of Hawaiian Affairs released a report The Disparate Treatment of Native Hawaiians in the Criminal Justice System finding that Native Hawaiians were disproportionately sent to out-of-state prisons. The report said that in 2005, “of the people in out-of-state facilities, 41 percent are Native Hawaiians”. The numbers may have gotten worse, as our our analysis of the Census Bureau data for Arizona’s Saguaro Correctional Facility says that that facility is 48% Native Hawaiian alone, and 49% Native Hawaiian alone or in combination with other racial groups.

I’ve included some slides from PrisonPolicy.org here, but you should definitely check it out for yourself.]

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What types of prison labor are instituted in #Hawaii prisons?

This is a great question, probably best answered by the Department of Public Safety. There is a website for the Correctional Industries: http://hawaiici.org/ [This site is really fascinating because it’s from the prison industry’s perspective. The site shows pictures of prisoners doing labor – everything from light construction crews to screenprinting shirts and woodwork. Additionally you’ll find the recent 2016 bill that spells out how prison labor in Hawaii must market itself: http://www.capitol.hawaii.gov/session2016/bills/GM1329_.pdf.

You could also contact the Community Alliance on Prisons for a view from outside the system https://caphawaii.wordpress.com/.

 

How are prisons designed in #Hawaii – differences for men, women,  + kids?

We have jails: pretrail detainees, prisons: sentenced and convicted, and youth correctional facilities: for offenders under the age of 18. Wards at youth correctional facilities attend school, they are supposed to have a more rehabilitative focus.

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How many youths are in #prison in #Hawaii?

For someone under 18 to go to prison, they must be charged as an adult, and pose a sufficient danger that they cannot be safely held at a juvenile facility. Then, if held in an adult prison, must be kept separate from the general population. We are not aware of any such situated youths in Hawaii at this time, but the Department of Public Safety could tell you more. Most of the time, youths do NOT go to jail or to prison, nor are they “convicted of crimes” or “inmates.” Youths are held at a Youth Correctional Facility, after being adjuticated (usually in Family Court) of an offense. Then they become wards. Youth correction in Hawaii has been controversial, the ACLU of Hawaii brought a landmark case about brutal treatment of wards who were (or were perceived to be) LGBT by the guards and administration. https://www.aclu.org/news/hawaii-youth-correctional-facility-pay-over-half-million-dollars-relentless-campaign-harassment

 

On average, how long do #Hawaii inmates wait until trial?

Under the Hawaii Rules of Penal Procedure, trials must generally commence within 6 months of arrest. This period can be extended for certain types of delays. A 2004 study found that people charged with felonies in Hawaiʻi spent 216 days in jail awaiting trial. See https://csgjusticecenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/12/JR_HI_Policy_Rollout_Handout.pdf

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How much is the average bail bond in #Hawaii? @acluhawaii

This is a great question, and the answer is, we are not entirely sure. There are currently no ready-made government reports on the subject. It is an area of interest to the ACLcaU, since we’d like to see no-cash bail for many offenses, instead of the large percentage of low level, non-violent offenders sitting in jail because they cannot pay. In fact, we plan to conduct a local study on this in the coming year or so. If you were to ask a government agency, it would be the court system.

 

Did US govt make $ off Japanese American #internment in WW2? [Learn more about internment in Hawaii during WW2 here: http://hawaiiinternment.org/]

There is a lot of documentation that yes, the United States did rampantly seize and sell the property of Japanese-American citizens as part of Internment. Many resources online about this, including this Economist article: http://www.economist.com/node/788126. To learn even more, including information about the newly established National Monument at Honouliuli, contact our local Japanese Cultural Center. The ACLU was instrumental in bringing to a close this shameful chapter in American history: https://www.aclu.org/other/aclu-history-dark-moment-history-japanese-internment-camps

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An image of Honouliuli Internment Camp in Honolulu – one of many internment camps spread across the islands that housed Japanese immigrants and Japanese Americans among other ethnic groups. Read more by clicking on this photo.

Are #Hawaii prisons affiliated with CC or @CorrectionsCorp?

The State of Hawaii pays CCA about $45 million per year to currently house about 1926 Hawai‘i prisoners at their private, for-profit prisons in Arizona.  The ACLU would like to see the State of Hawaiʻi stop using for-profit prisons entirely.

 

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If little girls from Gaza…

Katie Hardiman:

If little girls from Gaza can play among rubble and rockets, I can get out of bed.
If little girls from Syria can depart their homes on ill-equipped rafts headed toward unknown waters, I can wipe my tears.
If little girls from Nigeria can walk miles to school on the same path their kidnapped sisters took, I can go to work.
If little girls from Central America can spend weeks held captive by border patrol agents in detention, I can get through this day.
If little girls from Indigenous populations can study their people’s language and culture in order to keep their sovereignty alive, I can stay true to my convictions.
If little black girls from Flint and Ferguson can believe that their lives matter despite what officers and institutions repeatedly tell them, I can reclaim my self-worth.
If little queer and trans girls from intolerant families and nations can believe that it will get better, I can envision a better tomorrow.
If little girls from America can think they are strong and unstoppable no matter who tells them otherwise, I can be strong too.
If that little girl from Illinois can make it to the top of the ballot and win the popular vote, I can continue to pursue my dreams.
And if little girls from all across the world can continue to rise up, pounding at this seemingly bulletproof glass ceiling and raising their voices as they fight every single form of injustice imaginable- I can woman up and join them.

This week has been so hard for so many of us. My head aches and my skin is sticky from crying off and on for days. My heart hurts for so many others too that are fearful for their lives and those of their family.
It has been especially hard to see a few of my liberal colleagues and friends who did not vote for Trump respond with hatred – encouraging physical attacks against Trump supporters, slut shaming and denigrating Melania as an immigrant (which stings so badly for me), and accusing working-class Trump voters of being uneducated, dumb, un-American, and unworthy of citizenship. We are all actively working to eradicate the racial, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic biases not only in our culture but in ourselves. I know that we can make our communities and this country a better place when we all take a stand for diversity and against structural inequality and oppression. This is going to take a lot of persistence and love – not complacency and fear. And it’s not going to be easy. You can count on me as your ally. #StrongerTogether #Solidarity

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Carving Chinese Gourds as Experiments in Transnational American Studies

I’m currently teaching American Cultural Studies online to both American and Chinese graduate students studying at Tongji University. My American students are both from Hawaii – both “hapa” mixed- studying abroad as part of their architecture doctorate program. The system is an exchange between the two universities in which the American students spend a year at Tongji taking classes and then the following year the Chinese students spend the year in Hawaii.

With language barriers, cultural barriers, and the epic Chinese firewall, it has been tricky to find material and assignments to entertain and engage the entire class. Because the two American students had spent little or no time on mainland US, I’ve tried to focus our attention on 3 themes: 1) Parsing broad generalizations of America, 2) Providing a basic introduction to Hawaii, and 3) Getting the students to share their own reflections on what national identity and culture means. When I first Skyped into the course at the beginning of the fall semester, they were all bright-eyed and eager to soak in everything about each other. We’ve talked about the presidential election and American film genres, but mostly we just fight with the wifi signal and the firewall.

With still a month left in the course, I wanted to begin sharing excerpts of what they had submitted because they’ve been a beautiful self-reflective tool for me to think about American culture and identity.

Halloween:

One of our classes took place on Halloween which is Hawaii’s Mardi Gras. Tens of thousands of costumed adults flock to the streets of Waikiki for a weekend of drunken revelry. Using the help of my two American students, I tried to explain Halloween customs, at least from my experience, as being born out of two cultural fascinations with death in the US: Puritanical fear of witches and the devil via Salem witch trials and Mexican Day of the Dead culture and the honoring of ancestors via playing with skeletal imagery. I told them that I’m sure there are more influences – I mean, every culture has to have a visual and performative way to experience death – but being from Albany, GA, these were the two influences that I grew up knowing about.

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So I give them the gist and tell them that there are essentials to the holiday: You dress in costume (sometimes scary, sometimes funny, sometimes inappropriate), mostly kids walk around with their parents showing off costumes as an excuse to ask for candy (I told them adults by themselves can’t get away with this), and that we also carve faces into pumpkins and put them outside as a decoration at night.

“But WHY do you carve pumpkins into faces and light them?”

Great question. We just do. I’m sure there’s an original reason WHY Americans started doing that, but no one talks about it anymore. Like everything in America, we take an aspect of culture, put our fun DIY spin on it, and then sell tradition as a form of authenticity, self-making, and national consumption. Carving pumpkins is a sticky, wet, smelly process of disemboweling a perfectly good vegetable. You carve a face on it and then make it a lantern for about 3 days until it looks like this:

wrinkly_jackolantern

We have electricity and we now have better ways to create a lantern and scare off pesky tricksters. In this case, it is fun tradition of family-bonding because it often occurs at a kitchen table with siblings (because parents wield knives) with considerable cleanup afterward.  Designing your own pumpkin is fun for both the non-artistic (a few triangles will get the point across) and those that are real designers. Although it is not an experience shared by all Americans due to cost and accessibility like high school prom or white picket fences, jack-o-lantern iconography has become a staple of American ephemera. Years from now, when climate change has killed all the pumpkin fields, our children will look confusingly at the archaeological traces of jack-o-lanterns and say: “But WHY did you carve a face on a pumpkin?” I don’t know kid. Everyone did it.

Trying to orchestrate this familial moment of pumpkin carving with my online class as a form of experiential American Studies was impossible – I couldn’t tell my students living in dorms to walk to campus with a pumpkin, a knife, and cleanup equipment so that we can all huddle around a small screen. Likewise, I’m also teaching the class online while conducting archival research in San Diego, so I would be as equally ill-prepared for such a task. I couldn’t even guarantee that they would find a pumpkin where they buy groceries. In America, we know when to carve pumpkins not because we’re surrounded by fields of ripe gourds, but because the grocery store tells us when to buy them with “on sale” signs. We fetishize the carved pumpkin months before Halloween when you are supposed to display them. You can buy all kinds of candies and baked goods that just look like a carved pumpkin. You can even buy a plastic jack-o-lantern to save you the time of carving it in the first place.

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So the assignment for my students was simple: Go and find literally any fruit that you can disembowel, carve something into it, and light it from inside. Then send me a picture of a before and after shot. And I got awesome submissions! I was surprised that no one took me up on the “any fruit,” but I am so pleased we could share this experience. One student remarked:

I was excited today that I carved a pumpkin for the first time of my life. It took [me] 3 hours to finish but I am proud of it even though I actually did the carving stuff one step by one learning from a video.  Hope you like it, too. Lol.

Here are images of just two that I received – the first from an American and the second from a Chinese student. Compare and enjoy!  More transnational American Studies to come soon.

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PLUS! Here’s another Chinese student’s watermelon jack-o-lantern. The student explained, “The idea comes from the monster eyes of FENDI. I find it evil but cute.”

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Houghluck. It rhymes with "tough luck."

Last year I wrote a post On Loving a Young Black Woman In This World.

Y’all, it’s a year later and I could not be more proud of my now 17-year-old niece and her #BlackGirlMagic. She started college this year through a program that allows qualifying high schoolers to start college in their Junior or Senior year. On top of that, she’s accelerated her high school course program to graduate early.

Did I mention she did all this while working two jobs last year?

Yeah, she’s bada**.

She just started a new babysitting gig. It’s only a couple of times a month which is great because she obviously has a lot of school work to focus on at the moment. She’s got a key to their front door but it sticks a lot. She was chatting with me the other day and told me that two days this week…

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Zombies and Vampires. Bulls and Bears.

Happy Belated Halloween! Wanted to share these reflections on the shifting myths and meanings of zombies over time from my friend and colleague Jaime Hough at Purdue University. Boiler up and zombie down!

Houghluck. It rhymes with "tough luck."

A few days ago The Atlantic published a great article by Mike Mariani on zombies. Mariani’s piece discusses the origins of the zombie on colonial sugar plantations and the cultural evolution between sign and signified which has befallen the zombie over the years. I highly recommend you take a look at the piece, which you can find here.*

I found one passage of Mariani’s article particularly fascinating.

For a brief period, the living dead served as a handy Rorschach test for America’s social ills. At various times, they represented capitalism, the Vietnam War, nuclear fear, even the tension surrounding the civil-rights movement. Today zombies are almost always linked with the end of the world via the “zombie apocalypse,” a global pandemic that turns most of the human population into beasts ravenous for the flesh of their own kind. But there’s no longer any clear metaphor. While America may still…

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Double Dutch

This week for my undergraduate American Studies 201 course I’m teaching at Purdue this semester, we read Kyra Gaunt‘s essay in Generations of Youth, “The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip Hop” as part of our unit on “youth and place.”

Have no idea what Double Dutch is (and can’t figure it out from this seemingly complicated drawing)? Click here and Wikihow will give you 11 steps for learning how to double dutch: http://www.wikihow.com/Jump-Double-Dutch

In the essay Gaunt overlaps the histories of Double Dutch and hip hop, with double dutch as a complicated jump rope game originating in the early 20th century. “Double Dutch” signified that it was nearly irrationally complicated, as in the Dutch language ^2.  By the 1970s two police officers organized an official double dutch league, converting vacant lots into sites where kids could practice group jump-roping.  During a time when black men were finding a place in the hip hop industry, double dutch became a site in which black girls could claim an identity by: taking up public space, being part of a proud group of young black female athletes, practicing their version of African American “musicking” through double-dutch’s stomping, clapping, and chanting.  Unfortunately, although black girls were the double dutch stars, the institutionalization of double dutch as a regulated sport required the removal of these cultural aspects of the game which had reaffirmed black girls’ identities.  Now, regulation play prohibited stomping, clapping, and shouting.

Now, reading this article with my students who have NO idea what double dutch is – I’m blown away at how life in Aerican has changed since my youth.  While I loved jumping rope and playing with the “Skip it,” I didn’t live in the inner city and didn’t hang out with girl friends (more like my siblings), but completely respected double dutchers.  In this pre-Bring it On world in which sarcastic sex-loving cheerleaders would become the new cool, double dutch was bad ass.  Have no idea what I’m talking about?  Watch one of the best teams in 1985 free style it:

This clip comes from a PBS documentary by David Hoffman called Black Magic which serves as a window onto an important historical moment for young black girls – when they were being talked about collectively as promising Olympians and breaking Guinness World Records for the most jumps in a row.  Now, seeing the First Lady surprise viewers with her own double dutch skills in this extremely white group, begs the question – where in the heck are young black female athletes?

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#BlackGirlsMatter

I’m working on updating an older paper on high school feminism for publication, and stumbled across this report released in February of this year by the African American Policy Forum (AAPF) called “Black Girls Matter: Pushed-Out, Overpoliced, and Underprotected.”

Having heard about yet another murder of a young black transgender woman murdered in Florida this year, I wanted to give myself a refresher on this important study analyzing the intersections of gender, race, class, and age that shape young black women’s identities.  What can we learn from some infographics today?

Lesson 1: As exemplified by schools in New York, black girls are disciplined significantly more than other racial populations in proportion to their numbers of enrollment.

Lesson 2: Black girls are fifty-three times more likely to be expelled in New York City and ten times more likely to be expelled in Boston than white girls.

Lesson 3: Black girls are six times more likely to be suspended than white girls in New York.

And what about the rest of the fifty states?  What’s all of this lack of education and overpolicing do to impact the lives of young black girls across America?

Stereotypes that black girls are dumb, immodest, or belligerent cause young black women to struggle emotionally and economically.  In the words of Thahabu Gordon describing her experiences as a young African American girl,

“As long as I was ‘respectable,’ I was better than more urban girls. By seventh grade, I had internalized those concepts and avoided hanging around black girls who exclusively listened to rap and weren’t afraid of enthusiastically expressing their opinions. I was conditioned to think I was better than them. You would never have caught me in a tight dress or short bottoms because I was trying to distance myself from being volatile and hypersexual—aka, ‘that black girl.'”

Without full access to education, black girls become a nearly minuscule portion of the the black faculty, black STEM majors, black graduate students, black undergraduates, and black professional students that go on to be entrepreneurs, political leaders, and scholars.

By the way, there’s a real shortage of black girls represented in the world of infographics online…I’m going to work on this.  #BlackGirlsMatter

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