Prosecuting attorney, County of Kauai, 2012-present; deputy county attorney, 2009-2012; deputy prosecuting attorney 2008-2009; law clerk to the Honorable Daniel R. Foley 2006-2008, Kauai Lions Club, Rotary Club of Kauai, Filipino Chamber of Commerce.
1. What do you see as the most pressing issue facing your office? What will you do about it?
Fixing a racist and often broken criminal justice system. Since 2012 we have implemented a number of progressive reforms intended to reduce the reliance on mass incarceration and other punitive responses in situations where less expensive, decarceral options can be used while also protecting public safety. We want to continue making these needed reforms on Kauai and in Hawaii.
2. Jails and prisons are overcrowded and Hawaii’s correctional facilities are in poor physical condition. What would you do to reduce overcrowding in the jails and prisons?
Exactly what we have been doing. Placing more convicted people under community supervision instead of in jail. Reducing the number of people held pretrial by insisting that people are not detained based simply on an inability to pay money bail.
3. Because of COVID-19, many of Hawaii’s inmates were released so as to reduce the risk of infection. Where do you stand on this issue?
We strongly supported the process and on Kauai we were the only county able to reduce jail population to a number under the facility’s design capacity. This allowed staff the necessary space to enforce the appropriate hygiene and social distancing measures necessary to protect not only the incarcerated people but also the medical staff and corrections workers and consequently the entire community.
By doing what we did, we have so far avoided an outbreak or infection in our jail.
4. The recent police killings of black people in police custody have caused widespread racial unrest throughout the country. What would you do to strengthen police accountability in Hawaii including the role the prosecutor’s office plays in police use-of-force cases?
The creation of a statewide group to review police shootings was a good first step. Police and prosecutors need to implement measures that promote transparency when reviewing not just shootings but all uses of force. The reviews need to be done by experts who work separately from the police and prosecutors and are not funded by them.
Moreover, the Legislature needs to end the loopholes in state public records laws that protect police who are accused of misconduct on the job.
5, Native Hawaiians are disproportionately represented in the criminal justice system. What would you do to address racism and discriminatory treatment in law enforcement?
We have done our best to make sure our decision making is inclusive of Native Hawaiian voices and values. We have trained on eliminating implicit and explicit biases in our practices.
We employ collaborative multi-step review processes within our office designed to ensure consistency and fairness in our decisions.
6. Voters complain their elected officials don’t listen to them. What would you do to improve communication?
I have made myself available to my constituents in a number of ways: telephone, email, via social media, at public and community events. Our office policy is that every call gets answered within 24 hours. I will continue these policies and always look for new ways to talk to the public.
7. Gov. David Ige suspended the state laws on public records and open meetings because of COVID-19. Do you think that was appropriate? What will you do to ensure your agency’s business is conducted as openly as possible?
It may have been appropriate for a very brief period at the start of the pandemic while agencies figured out how to maintain operations in virtual settings. It is now long past time to reauthorize those laws.
8. What other issue would you like to address or make the voters aware of?
Law enforcement is at a crossroads in Hawaii and across the country. We are not exempt from this in Hawaii. If re-elected, I will be continuing to do all I can to advance our profession away from the failed mass incarceration policies of the 1980s and 1990s and towards new and more fair models that serve the entire community.
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