The Governor is busy reviewing 230 bills passed by the Legislature this past session. So far, he’s signed 48 into law including one that will help inmates. HPR’s Wayne Yoshioka reports.
In 2015, an estimated 300 inmates completed their sentences and were released into the community. Many did not have the basic documentation required for re-entry into society. Governor David Ige signed House Bill 845 into law to correct that.
“This bill requires the Department of Public Safety to offer inmates the opportunity to obtain identification information such as social security cards, birth certificates and other forms of ID, at least 90 days prior to their release.”
The Governor says many people take their identification documents for granted. Department of Public Safety director, Nolan Espinda, says the new law provides a clear path for inmate re-integration and also places requirements on supporting agencies.
“It helps our department in that this is an obvious practice that needs to be accomplished but, more importantly, it now brings other stakeholders to the table because the law requires them to cooperate with us in achieving this goal. That level of assistance was not provided in years past.”
The new law also requires the Department of Public Safety to report to the legislature on the number of inmates released that cannot obtain identification documents. The YWCA of O’ahu testified in support of the measure throughout the legislative session. Kathleen Alguire is the advocacy coordinator.
“We have a furlough program and we serve about 50 women a year and for our own experience we knew that this was an issue. And then through the course of the session talking with other advocates and other groups doing similar type work, learning that this was an issue for them as well. So we’re hoping that this has a huge impact on people for the better.”
During the bill signing, Governor Ige acknowledged that credit for introducing the measure goes to a Freshman Representative serving in his first term and in his first legislative session with the House of Representatives.
“ (Ige) I would like to introduce Representative Cedric Gates. I understand this is his first bill..ah..to be (applause). For those of us who are legislators, certainly understand what that means. (Gates) Aloha everyone (Aloha). Today marks a very special day. It is my first bill signing and my first bill that I was able to get through the legislature to law and I look forward to seeing it help a lot of the inmates who come out of prison successfully re-integrate into society. So, Mahalo to everyone. Thank you.”
After the bill was signed into law, Representative Gates had another wish.
“I introduced almost 20 bills this session. I got 2 bills passed and one is still awaiting a signature so hopefully, the governor will pick that up.”
For HPR News, I’m Wayne Yoshioka.