Hawaii’s criminal justice system isn’t immune to racial bias and the Judiciary is committed to addressing that racial inequity, Hawaii Chief Justice Mark Recktenwald said Friday.
He spoke at a Zoom webinar, the first of a series of free virtual panels the Judiciary is hosting along with the Hawaii State Bar Association about achieving racial equity in Hawaii. Friday’s event focused on Black Lives Matter in Hawaii.
“Over the summer, I watched the images of George Floyd’s death with horror and dismay,” Recktenwald said, noting that both nationally and in Hawaii, “barriers to justice have been built into systems, both knowingly and unknowingly.”
Recktenwald said the Judiciary has sought to address systemic injustice through efforts like pretrial reform and traffic fines and fees reform, and said the webinar series builds upon that ongoing work.
Friday’s panel featured Kristen Brown, the Hawaii NAACP youth chair, who helped organize last summer’s march, and Akiemi Glenn, who leads the Popolo Project, a nonprofit dedicated to telling stories of the Black community in Hawaii.
The event also featured Kamaile Maldonado from the Office of Hawaiian Affairs and Josie Howard from We Are Oceania and included a discussion of the similarities between Black, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander experiences in Hawaii.
“Native Hawaiians are being disproportionately punished for essentially the same crimes, and that is increasing at every level,” she said, noting that OHA plans to release a report this year on criminal justice disparities.
She said acknowledging racism is particularly important in Hawaii, where “we have a generally accepted idea among our policymakers that we don’t really have a race problem. We hear that all the time,” she said.