- Associated Press - Friday, January 29, 2016

HONOLULU (AP) - State prison officials are looking to reduce the $489 million price tag for a new jail on Oahu under a public-private partnership that’s exempt from certain environmental requirements.

The state is exploring a deal with a private contractor to build the new jail on the grounds of the Halawa prison. They are asking to be exempted from conducting an environmental impact assessment because the construction would take place on a site that has already been established, Hawaii News Now reported (https://bit.ly/23xrkGy).

“A private developer who’d build a facility and have the state lease it back, I think we have to thoroughly examine that possibility because of the possibility that it could save us millions of dollars,” said State Rep. Gregg Takayama, chairman of the State House Public Safety Committee.

Public Safety Director Nolan Espinda, who oversees prisons statewide, said the state is looking to select a private contractor through a bidding process.

“What we hope, of course, is that we’re going to bring in multiple bidders with new and proven ideas that we can entertain, review and hopefully enter into an agreement,” said Espinada.

The call for another prison comes as the state’s largest jail, the Oahu Community Correctional Center, in Kalihi is at 125 percent capacity, with some inmates having to sleep on the floor.

“Our intent and plan is to get the inmates who are on the floor off of it and hopefully reduce our need for reliance on the Federal Detention Center as an alternate site,” said Espinda. “Conditions created by overcrowding place the citizens and elected officials of Hawaii under a cloud of liability that could threaten the continued autonomous control and supervision of jails throughout the state.”

About 200 inmates are housed at the FDC, which costs the state millions of dollars each year.

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Information from: KGMB-TV, https://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/

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