Hawaii judges, prosecutors, public defenders, law enforcement and others are working together to figure out which of the more than 5,000 inmates in the state’s correctional facilities can be safely released to mitigate COVID-19 risks.
The Attorney General’s Office says it will coordinate a remote-access meeting to be held Friday to develop a plan.
On Monday, the state Office of the Public Defender filed a petition with the Hawaii Supreme Court urging the court to issue an order commuting or suspending jail sentences for certain low-level offenders, including misdemeanants and petty misdemeanants.
The Supreme Court ordered the attorney general and county prosecutors to come up with a plan.
Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors “recognized the urgent need to mitigate the risk of COVID-19 spreading in the state’s corrections system, but noted the important duty of law enforcement to protect the public and ensure the fair administration of justice,” according to a news release from the AG’s office.
“Temporarily releasing inmates or suspending jail sentences could create risks of harm to victims and other persons in the community,” she said. “All sectors of the criminal justice system should participate in this unprecedented process of re-evaluating the need to incarcerate certain inmates in order to reduce the danger of COVID-19 spreading in our jail system.”
At the Friday meeting, the group will discuss the process for evaluating who will be released, the AG’s office said.
The evaluation will also consider whether the released inmate has a place to go, if he or she will put another person at risk and also ensure that the release would not “further tax the limited government resources that are focused on addressing the general spread of COVID-19 in the community,” according to the news release.
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