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Editor’s note: For Hawaii’s Nov. 8 general election, Civil Beat asked candidates to answer some questions.
The following came from Lisa Arin, candidate for Kauai County prosecutor. There is one other candidate, Justin Kollar.
Name: Lisa Arin
Office seeking: Kauai prosecuting sttorney
Community organizations/prior offices held: Deputy prosecuting attorney and law clerk, Office of the Prosecuting Attorney, County of Kauai, 2009-2015; deputy public defender, County of San Bernardino, California, 1993-1997 and 1998-2006; president, Kauai Children’s Justice Committee; director, Na Pualei O Ka Honua (non-profit organization dedicated to enabling, enhancing and empowering Hawaii’s youth); member, Zonta Club of Kauai; former assistant coach, Kauai High School girls softball team; Kauai Child Death Review Panel; Kauai Sex Assault Response Team; Hawaii Sexual Assault Response Team
Place of residence: Anahola, Kauai
Campaign website: votelisaarin.com
1. This year has seen an outsized influence from people who want big changes in how government is run. What would you do to change how the prosecutor’s office is run?
Change will start at the top by having a truly experienced and effective leader. So as Kauai’s next prosecutor, I will lead by example, I will be hands on and present in the office and in the courtroom to ensure that the Prosecutor’s Office becomes stable, and the community’s need for consistent and effective prosecution occurs day to day, week to week, and year to year.
2. What would you do to strengthen police accountability?
I support the Kauai Police Department’s efforts in the measures they have taken to internally hold their officers more accountable. They have undertaken a process to very carefully screen recruits to lessen the chance for inappropriate candidates able to make it through the process.
They have also implemented the use of body cameras for officers. There are pros and cons argued by various people about their use, but the bottom line is that body cams are a great tool to protect both citizens and officers.
As the prosecutor, I will have the ability to review information through witness information and body cam data, and if an officer acts outside of the bounds of KPD policy and the criminal law, the officer will be held equally accountable under the law, just as a citizen would in a similar situation.
3. Jails and prisons are overcrowded and Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented. Should we be incarcerating fewer people? Why or why not?
Jail overcrowding cannot be a deterrent from appropriate jail consequences in crimes involving victims. Serious and repeat offenders need to be incarcerated appropriately for community safety and justice for victims. We do need to look at alternatives to incarceration and find creative solutions for those that are more minor offenders (like those driving without a license who just can’t get their license back for financial reasons or contempt of court). To me it’s only common sense that if we do not have enough room in the jail for the serious offenders, then we should not be putting people in jail for minor offenses and letting dangerous offenders out early.
4. What would you do as prosecutor to address the drug problem?
There are many things that need to occur from a community perspective to deal with Kauai’s drug problem, beginning with making kids safe at home, in their community and at school so there is less of a chance that they would even consider starting to use drugs. Education, accessibility to social activities, and positive mentors, as well as treatment are essential. Therefore, I will address all crimes properly to assist in making kids safe at home and in their community, and I will advocate for and support programs that provide education, accessibility to social activities and positive mentoring, and expanded treatment options on Kauai.
From a prosecutorial perspective, adult drug dealers need to be treated differently in the criminal justice system than drug users. Drug dealers will be dealt with seriously and incarcerated to protect our kids, and those drug users who are trying desperately to keep/get clean.
Drug users who are not committing other criminal offenses should be assisted with treatment. Meaning that as long as someone in this group is showing up and continuing to try and stay/get clean, I would not advocate sending them to jail for testing positive for drugs (except as necessary to assist them in their recovery).
5. Hawaii has long been dominated by the Democratic Party establishment. Should this change, and if so, how?
Fundamental to the democratic process is allowing the voters to decide whose voice is heard loudest and what gets accomplished politically.
6. What specific steps would you take to strengthen Hawaii’s lax lobbying, ethics and financial disclosure laws?
I would back any laws that increase accountability and transparency. But even more importantly, I would bring community trust to the Kauai Prosecutor’s Office by appropriately providing the public with accurate data on the cases our office is prosecuting and the true results of those cases, as well as properly recognizing when our office has a conflict of interest and having the case handled by the appropriate prosecutorial agency when a conflict does exist.
7. Would you support eliminating Hawaii’s high fees for access to public records when the request is in the public interest?
8. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
My ability and willingness to listen, communicate and collaborate with others is why I have such strong community support from people who have worked with me. I would continue with that practice, as well as continue to attend community meetings, as I have been doing this past year, to ensure that I am staying in tune with community concerns and issues.
9. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your office? What will you do about it?
Rebuilding the prosecutor’s office into a strong office that can successfully prosecute cases, and support and maintain its employees has to be my immediate focus. Unfortunately as it currently stands, the office has had a 100 percent deputy turnover rate (the current administration started with 13 deputy prosecutors, and a total of 13 deputy prosecutors have left the office, six in the past year alone). This has resulted in office instability and being filled mostly with deputies who are inexperienced attorneys or lack trial experience, and have no connection built to our community.
As Kauai’s next prosecutor, I will bring experience back to the Prosecutor’s Office starting at the top to facilitate a strong and stable rebuilding process. My administration will focus on serious and repeat offenders, dealing appropriately with drug crimes and domestic violence, and finding solutions and alternatives for less serious offenses and offenders.