The Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office has received a $200,000 federal grant to implement a community court that is intended to help resolve a backlog of over 11,000 low-level, non-violent cases.

They include 2,173 cases involving drinking liquor in public places; 1,146 cases relating to smoking in public; and 8,067 cases involving violations of park rules, such as sleeping in a public park when it’s closed.

“Many of these offenders are homeless and have substance abuse or mental health issues that have contributed to repeated non-compliance,” a press release from the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office explained Wednesday. “The goal is to help them resolve their legal problems without fines or incarceration while also maintaining accountability and respect for the law.”

Signs of the homeless in Ala Moana Park.
Staying in a park illegally after hours can result in citations that create a backlog at the state Judiciary. 

The community court is a collaboration between Prosecuting Attorney Keith Kaneshiro, Deputy Chief District Court Judge Barbara Richardson and Public Defender Jack Tonaki.

The press release from the Honolulu Prosecutor’s Office announcing the award noted that the Hawaii Legislature is considering spending $612,610 to help fund the court, which will be mobile and offer alternative sentences like treatment.

In addition to receiving grant money from the Department of Justice, Honolulu will receive technical assistance from the Center for Court Innovation.

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