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You Think It's Pretty, But...
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Voters Service 1980
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You Think It's Pretty, But...

... there have been recent reports of an atmosphere of violence, and it has a reputation for being such a horrible place the judges send youths there for up to 30 days as "shock" treatment. The law regarding this facility hasn't been amended significantly in 50 years. The name of the facility is the Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility (Koolau) and it is the major focus of Senate Bill 1839.

A framework to coordinate and guide the agencies serving juvenile justice has been in the making for several years. The administration's bill, S.B. 1839, is meant to partially implement the framework established by the 1974 Juvenile Justice Plan and its 1979 supplements. There is very little in the bill that could not be accomplished administratively "by general policy, some rules and regulations, administrative decision, and even general attitudes" (State Law Enforcement Planning Agency memorandum, January 29, 1979). The sketchiness of S.B. 1839 probably reflects how few points of agreement can be reached between the various juvenile justice components. Despite the obstacles, Senator Dennis O'Connor's staff is presently attempting to prepare a truly comprehensive bill in time for this session.

S.B. 1839 establishes a Community Services Section to internally coordinate the Department of Social Services and housing's handling of furlough, parole, the Boys Group Home, and other community-based programs for Koolau residents working their way back into the community. (The Boys Group Home is a residential facility in Aliamanu for 8 boys committed to Koolau. The Home's population is selected from those boys being committed to Koolau for the first time.)

The most meaningful amendment requires Koolau to provide rehabilitation efforts and to conduct an annual review of each case. Three separate studies of Koolau were done "to assist ... [Koolau] in moving away from crisis action to planned decision-making" ("An Assessment of Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility," Survey and Marketing Services, 1979). The corrections plan says, "there should be reasonable objectives and expectations of what can be done to help juveniles within the period of confinement" ("Proposed Short and Long Range Plans for Hawaii Youth Correctional Facility," Department of Social Services and Housing, 1979). And yet, policy makers can't agree whether Koolau should be "tough so the juveniles will want to get out, stay clean, and never return" or should meet the "stated ... [Koolau] philosophy of providing a humane environment and treatment to achieve the rehabilitative goal" (Juvenile Justice Plan, 1974). This amendment would make the decision for the community: rehabilitate.

The key to transforming the existent Koolau into a facility to meet that goal -- an improved and better trained staff -- would require additional funding and is not addressed at all by S.B. 1839.

According to the SMS report, there is a confusion of roles and expectations, especially on the part of the Youth Correctional Officers (YCOs). "The YCOs are responsible for: custodial control and supervision of the wards; recording of social behavioral, educational, and occupational data; carrying out techniques of behavior modification; discussion of personal and institutional problems with individual wards; and assisting in the general adjustment of youths at the facility." According to the survey of the YCOs, some see their job as being responsible for security, custodial control and supervision of the wards, while others consider their job to include counseling and handling of inmates' problems. According to the Personnel Office of DSSH, the YCO positions were reclassified from that of House parents with the understanding that they do counseling and function as "change agents."

There also seems to be a lack of common understanding and uncertainty among the workers about treatment and how it applied both in the daily cottage living situation and in special programs. This is exemplified by comments by those interviewed in the SMS study that being sympathetic with wards may be interpreted as "favoritism" by both wards and YCOs, or as being soft and this could be used against the YCO.

This lack of understanding of what is involved in counseling, in establishing positive working relationships, and creating an environment conducive for treatment and helping wards work out some of their problems, reveal the urgent need for staff training. (DSSH, 1979)

Senator O'Connor described Koolau's other problems in sweeping terms -- the facilities:

have been allowed to deteriorate badly because of the 1974 recommendations [to close correctional facilities and place juvenile law violators in halfway houses] and except for school they have no rehabilitation programs And there is no security out there . . . . We are faced with a major redoing, rethinking, and re-planning of the Youth Correctional Facilities. (Honolulu Star-Bulletin, February 12, 1979)

S.B. 1839 also encourages the police to be more active in diverting youths away from the courts; for example, counseling and release for youths, or help from community agencies. The bill creates an inter-agency advisory board, and specifics such things as furlough from Koolau; restitution as a possible "sentence"; and notification to the police, parents, and Family Court when a youth is discharged from Koolau.

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