The ACLU of Hawai‘i staff would like to Mahalo all those who made their voices heard in the 2022 legislative session.

Aloha kākou,

Greetings from the ACLU of Hawai’i!  We hope this message finds you and your ‘ohana well as we reflect on the end of the 2022 legislative session and plant seeds for future civil right legislative victories.

First and foremost, mahalo nui to our friends and allies for engaging in the legislative process. Your testimony, calls, emails, meetings with lawmakers, posts on social media and lobbying efforts sent a signal that our status quo criminal legal system just won’t do.  Instead, you advocated for fair and equitable Smart Justice policies based on data, not fear.

Imprisonment is a brutal and costly response to harm. We must commit to real accountability for harm in a way that is more meaningful and more effective than incarceration. We can collectively choose to prioritize care, health, education, housing and community-based restorative justice that actually makes us safer.  In order to end mass incarceration, we must provide people with the social and economic support that is needed to prevent crime in the first place. 

Due to your unwavering commitment, our community helped to pass a number of legislative bills across the finish line! Here’s a partial list of legislative highlights:

HB1600 HD1 SD2 CD1

For years, our message has been clear – Build people, not prisons.  To that end, we drafted a bill to enact a five year Moratorium on expanding or building new jails and prisons.   When we learned that proponents of jail expansion would not introduce this measure, we pivoted to another strategy and decided to follow the money! 

As part of the Department of Public Safety’s budget, they requested $15 million dollars to continue planning for a new jail to replace the O’ahu jail – even though Hawai’i has failed to implement other criminal legal reforms that have proven effective in reducing the jail population and saving taxpayer dollars. 

Due to your persistent advocacy, we achieved a major victory!  Together, we blocked the release of $15 million dollars for further jail planning!  This is a major setback for the private for profit prison industry’s plans to construct a new jail in Hawai’i through a private-public partnership, estimated to cost nearly $1 billion dollars.  

Still, this battle isn’t over.  We must remain vigilant and continue to advocate for decarceration strategies and alternatives to incarceration.

HB2309 HD2 SD2 CD1

Originally, this bill appropriated funding for community based organizations providing diversion, rehabilitation and reentry support services.  The final bill allocated $1.1 million in funding for the Department of Health to create a forensic peer specialist program, community housing for persons under parole supervision and funding for identification card machines.  Each agency is required to submit reports to the Legislature outlining how the funds were expended, the number of people served, a description of the services provided and measurable outcomes.

In addition to legislation, you contributed to movement building.  In March, many of you joined us for the Hui Hoʻiwai Re-Entry Summit, coordinated in partnership with Ekolu Mea Nui, Going Home Hawai‘I, Men of PA‘A, and Papa Ola Lōkahi.  Participants throughout Hawai’i nei traveled to O’ahu to build and strengthen relationships, and learned about a cultural and public health framework for criminal justice reform and re-entry programs and services.  Together, we honed our advocacy skills through storytelling training under the guidance of Lewis Conway, Jr.   Between workshops, participants met legislators at the Capitol.  They shared personal stories of heartbreak and redemption, and championed bills that call for systems changes and adequate funding for alternatives to incarceration.

Although the 2022 legislative session officially ended on May 5th, our policy work continues. We are monitoring the status of Smart Justice bills that crossed the legislative finish line, and were rolled over to the Governor’s office. 

Governor Ige has the authority to sign bills or allow them to become law without his signature.  The Governor also has the power to veto bills.

The deadline for Governor Ige to issue his intent to veto a bill to the Legislature is June 27th, and deliver a veto  by July 12th.   If that occurs, lawmakers have an opportunity to override the veto in special session by July 12th. Otherwise, the veto will stand – and lawmakers and the community may pursue similar or the same bills in the future.

As you know, not every important bill from the session became law.  A few notable bills that did not make it this session:

HB2344 HD2 SD1 /SB2514 SD1       Probation Reform would have prohibited incarceration for technical violations while under probation supervision, and created a good time credit for compliance.  This bill is critically important because Hawai’i has the longest average probation term compared to all other jurisdictions in the United States at 59 months (2021 Pew Report). Revocations that lead to more incarceration does not address the underlying root causes of crime, and contributes to jail and prison overcrowding. 

Similarly, SB2515 / HB2342  Parole Reform would have prohibited incarceration for technical violations while under Parole supervision and created a good time credit system to provide incentives for compliance with parole.  Over the past few years, between 95-100% of all people charged with parole revocations were incarcerated based on technical rule violations, not new convictions.

SB3159 / HB2343  Clean Slate – this bill would have wiped the slate clean and allowed for automatic expungements of criminal records when a person has demonstrated a crime free life after a designated period of time.  Neither chamber held a hearing on this bill

Our preferred Bail Reform bill HB2017 / SB2778 would have placed the burden on Prosecutors to prove that pretrial detention is warranted and prohibited pretrial detention based on wealth . Unfortunately, this bill was drafted, but never introduced.  Instead, some lawmakers supported the passage of a weaker measure, HB 1567, that has since rolled over to Governor Ige for review.

Still, one thing is for certain–  our community and the ACLU of Hawai’i won’t give up!  We will continue to fight for the civil rights and civil liberties enshrined in our federal and Hawai’i Constitution and push for a safer and more just Hawai’i!


Carrie Ann Shirota

Policy Director