- Associated Press - Friday, November 6, 2015

HILO, Hawaii (AP) - Hawaii County officials are taking steps to address the incarceration of mentally ill individuals on the Big Island who end up in overcrowded facilities.

The County Council passed Resolution 268 Tuesday, allowing the county to receive federal grants and support to provide alternatives for nonviolent mentally ill individuals who commit crimes, West Hawaii Today reports (https://bit.ly/1ky8j4n).

Warden Peter Cabreros told the council that the module housing mentally inmates at Hawaii Community Correctional Center is designed for 44 inmates, but that the population has reached 100.

“They live in conditions that have been described as ‘unimaginable,’ very crowded,” Warden said. “It’s a struggle for security staff and health care staff to manage these inmates.”

Advocates of a new “Stepping Up” initiative told the council that the program supported by 50 public and private entities could also draw on Medicare and Medicaid funds to help provide medical services to people who need it.

“The recidivism in our county will lower significantly and our Department of Public Safety personnel will not face the stress and frustration of having our facilities over capacity, and therefore, overburdened,” said Irene Nagao, vice president of the Going Home Consortium, in written testimony shared by several other mental health workers. “This will make for a much safer, healthier and productive community for all of us to work, play and enjoy.”

Puna Councilman Greggor Ilagan, who sponsored the resolution, acknowledged that mental health and corrections are state responsibilities, but said the county can also get involved and take action.

“It is the county’s role to advocate and bring out awareness and advocate for funding,” Ilagan said.

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Information from: West Hawaii Today, https://www.westhawaiitoday.com


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