Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 15, 2008

Liking Kentucky —— 05/17/08

Inmates from Hawaii don’t want to be locked up there

Question: If you were incarcerated by the state of Hawaii, would you rather spend your time behind bars at a prison on that island paradise or in Kentucky?

Well, as unlikely as this may sound to those of us who live in Kentucky, more than 100 female inmates from Hawaii have signed a petition requesting that they remain at the Otter Creek Correctional Center in Wheelwright instead of being transferred back home. Otter Creek is privately owned and operated by Corrections Corporations of America. It houses female inmates from a number of different states.

Ironically, the inmates from Hawaii were critical of Otter Creek when they first arrived in 2005, complaining of poor medical care and the physical condition of the prison. However, in their latest petition, the women representing about two-thirds of the 149 Hawaiian women housed at Otter Creek, say, “things have changed for the better.” Their letter praises the educational, recreational and drug treatment programs at Otter Creek, while reminding lawmakers that the state saves money by housing convicts in privately run prisons.

We find it surprising that prisoners would prefer being incarcerated thousands of miles from home instead of in their own state. Surely, the women from Hawaii get few visitors and, in our view, maintaining contact with family and friends on the outside is an important part of keeping inmates from quickly returning to jail once they are released.

A bill being considered by legislators in Hawaii instructs the Department of Public Safety to plan an expansion of correctional housing, medical facilities, drug treatment and other programs for women returning from the Kentucky prison. Hawaii is looking to reduce the approximately $50 million a year it pays Corrections Corporation of America to house about 2,000 of the state’s male and female prisoners.

Who would have ever thought a private prison located far from home in Wheelwright, Ky., would be preferred over a state-owned prison in Hawaii? Amazing.